newsIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

General Assembly to vote on more rights for Palestinians at UN

The outcome will provide a barometer of support for statehood recognition.

PLO envoy to the U.N. Riyad Mansour addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, April 25, 2022. Credit: Mark Garten/U.N. Photo.
PLO envoy to the U.N. Riyad Mansour addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, April 25, 2022. Credit: Mark Garten/U.N. Photo.

The U.N. General Assembly will attempt to run an end-around the U.N. Charter on Friday when it is slated to vote on a resolution that would grant the Palestinians unprecedented perks, following the Security Council’s rejection of the Palestinians’ long-standing full membership application.

The vote will provide a barometer of support for the Palestinians’ push towards universal statehood recognition.

In addition to asking the Security Council to “reconsider the matter favorably,” the resolution, 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.

Critics have disputed that notion, pointing in part to the Palestinian Authority’s policy of paying monthly stipends to its residents who commit terrorist attacks against Israelis, with higher stipends paid based on the viciousness of the crimes.

Additionally, Hamas, which rules Gaza—part of an envisioned Palestinian state—carried out the Oct. 7 massacre and has vowed to repeat it as often as possible.

An annex to the resolution viewed by JNS, which could be revised ahead of Friday’s vote, would also grant unprecedented rights to a non-member observer state, which has been the Palestinians’ U.N. classification since a 2012 General Assembly vote.

Those benefits would include 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—all privileges not granted to the institution’s other non-member observer state, the Holy See, nor to the European Union, which holds the same status.

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 (ECOSOC) or Human Rights Council.

Human Rights Council membership?

While membership qualifications for the Security Council and ECOSOC are defined in the U.N. Charter, the Human Rights Council relies instead on a General Assembly resolution, theoretically providing the possibility through an amended or new General Assembly resolution, for future Palestinian membership in the Human Rights Council, which already has a remarkably powerful anti-Israel bent. 

Last month, the United States vetoed an Algeria-drafted Security Council resolution to grant the Palestinians full U.N. membership. This came after the council’s membership admission committee failed to reach a consensus on recommending the granting of full membership, with several council members concerned about the Palestinians’ qualifications, including their lack of defined borders, split governance and instability of the Palestinian Authority.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, ripped the proposed General Assembly resolution on Monday, claiming it would give the Palestinians de facto status as a full U.N. member, in contravention of the U.N. Charter.

“If it is approved, I expect the United States to completely stop funding the UN and its institutions, in accordance with American law,” said Erdan, noting that the resolution’s passage by the General Assembly would “not change anything on the ground.”

Under U.S. law, Washington must cease funding any U.N. organization that grants full membership to any entity lacking the “internationally recognized attributes” of statehood. Washington stopped funding UNESCO, the U.N.’s cultural agency after it granted full member status to the Palestinians in 2011.

“There is an established process for obtaining full membership, and our concern is that this may be an effort to go around the Security Council,” Robert Wood, Washington’s deputy U.N. ambassador, told reporters on Monday. “We’ve made that very clear to council members, the Palestinians, so it will be up to them to decide what they want to do with it, but we’re very concerned with the precedent this type of resolution would set.”

Late last month, the State Department’s top Middle East diplomat critiqued the continued push for Palestinian membership at the United Nations.

Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, told reporters, “The effort to proffer membership to a state that doesn’t, in fact, exist—where the borders have not been delineated and a whole series of final-status issues have not been negotiated—simply makes no sense.”

Israel Katz, Israel’s foreign minister, chimed in on Wednesday, tweeting that recognition of a Palestinian state following Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre would be “rewarding” the terrorist group, while “giving a prize to the Iranian regime” and “living with the possibility of another Oct. 7.”

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