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At UN General Assembly, Palestinians get novel rights for non-member observer, no membership

The global body is paving the way for “the establishment of a Palestinian terror state, which will be led by the Hitler of our times,” Israel’s envoy said.

Gilad Erdan, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, shreds a page of the Charter of the United Nations as he addresses the resumed 10th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on “Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory" on May 10, 2024. Credit: Manuel Elías/U.N. Photo.
Gilad Erdan, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, shreds a page of the Charter of the United Nations as he addresses the resumed 10th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on “Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory" on May 10, 2024. Credit: Manuel Elías/U.N. Photo.

The U.N. General Assembly voted 143-9 on Friday to give the Palestinians unprecedented rights for a non-member observer state, though still did not grant Palestinians full U.N. membership.

The resolution, which the United Arab Emirates pushed and drew 25 abstentions in Friday’s vote, comes after Washington’s veto last month of a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have accepted the Palestinians long-dormant 2011 application for full membership in the global body.

“We voted against this resolution. We continue to believe in the power and promise of a two-state solution and an independent state for the Palestinian people,” John Kirby, White House national security communications advisor, told reporters on Friday.

The Biden administration believes “the best way to do that is through direct negotiation between the parties and not through a vote at the U.N.,” Kirby said.

A 2012 General Assembly vote granted the Palestinians non-member observer status. There was once again a  push for a reclassification of the Palestinians’ status in the wake of Israel’s counteroffensive after Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

In addition to asking the Security Council to “reconsider the matter favorably,” the General Assembly resolution passed on Friday, which is widely expected to garner the necessary two-thirds majority of the 193-member body, states that the so-called Palestinian state is “peace-loving,” a requirement of the charter.

An annex to the resolution also grants the Palestinians the right to be elected to General Assembly committees, to submit proposals and amendments, to raise procedural motions and to be seated among member states in alphabetical order.

Those are all privileges that the institution’s other non-member observers—the Holy See and the European Union—do not enjoy.

The Palestinians would still not have a General Assembly vote, nor would they be able to present candidacy for major U.N. organs, such as the Security Council, Economic and Social Council.

U.N. General Assembly
The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution determining that “the State of Palestine is qualified for membership in the United Nations in accordance with Article 4 of the Charter of the United Nations and should therefore be admitted to membership in the United Nations” on May 10, 2024. Credit: Manuel Elías/U.N. Photo.

The resolution appears to leave the door open for a separate General Assembly resolution to allow for the election of the Palestinians to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which has a long history of Israel criticism.

In addition to the United States and Israel, Argentina, Chechia, Hungary, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Papua New Guinea voted against the resolution. Some of those states have recognized Palestinian statehood, which suggests that they may have had concerns about the irregular process of granting the Palestinians rights that have not previously applied to non-member observer states.

The United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and Ukraine were among the notable abstentions.

Gilad Erdan, the Israeli U.N. ambassador, used a miniature portable shredder to destroy a copy of the U.N. Charter during his speech prior to the vote. He suggested that the General Assembly was circumventing the institution’s founding principles in granting exceptional status to the Palestinians.

He said the General Assembly was voting to “advance the establishment of a Palestinian terror state, which will be led by the Hitler of our times.” Erdan held up a picture of “President Sinwar” and pointed to polls indicating Hamas would take control of Palestinian territories in Judea and Samaria should another national election be held.

“Soon-to-be-president Yahya Sinwar, tyrant of the state of Hamas, sponsored by the U.N.,” Erdan said.

He claimed that the Palestinian Authority’s U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour would be thrown off a roof should he return home after a Hamas takeover, similar to actions taken by Hamas against Fatah party rivals during a violent takeover of Gaza.

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