UN recognizes upgraded Palestinian membership

Click photo to download. Caption: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Credit: World Economic Forum.

(JNS.org) The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution Thursday to upgrade the status of the Palestinians in the international body.

The 193-member assembly passed the resolution by a vote of 138-9, with 41 abstentions.

The Palestinians, represented through the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a non-governmental political and paramilitary organization, will now be recognized as a “non-member observer state.”

Immediately after the vote, a Palestinian flag was unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly.

In his speech, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the General Assembly that it was “being asked today to issue the birth certificate of Palestine.”

While short of full member status, the upgraded status will allow the Palestinians to join several UN agencies and treaties, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), where the Palestinians could bring criminal charges against Israel.

The Palestinians failed to gain full UN statehood status last year after the U.S. threatened to veto the initiative in the Security Council.

The U.S. and Israel were quick to condemn the vote.

“Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace,” American UN Ambassador Susan Rice said.

“Abbas’s speech proves once more, for anyone who needed more proof, that we are dealing with an enemy who has no desire or intention to make peace,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the Brookings Institution, said the U.S. believes the resolution will "do nothing to advance the peace and the two-state solution we all want to see,” NBC News reported.

Jewish groups also spoke out against the vote.

“The United Nations General Assembly recklessly set back the chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians today,” read a statement from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris said in a statement that UN members “rewarded Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for defiance, for refusing to engage in direct talks with Israel.”

Chairman and Richard Stone and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents said the UN vote “will leave no victors but certainly a primary loser, peace in the Middle East.”

“This maneuver’s sole purpose is to bypass direct negotiations with Israel with the attempt to achieve through the UNGA vote recognition that will, in fact, not change anything on the ground for the Palestinian people, but will dim the prospect for peace,” Stone and Hoenlein said in a statement.

Notably, the UK abstained from the vote after it failed to receive assurances that the Palestinians would immediately return to negotiations and wouldn’t pursue criminal charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court.

While the vote is a major political setback for the U.S. and Israel, many analysts believe that it is largely a symbolic, with only real Palestinian independence being achieved through negotiations. However, it could provide a boost for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose power and relevance within Palestinian politics has diminished at the expense of Hamas. 

Posted on November 29, 2012 .