newsU.S.-Israel Relations

Palestinian bid for full UN membership stuck in committee

“If Hitler were alive today, he would be singing the U.N.’s praises,” said Israeli envoy Gilad Erdan.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas addresses members of his Cabinet in Ramallah, Sept. 3, 2020. Photo by Flash90.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas addresses members of his Cabinet in Ramallah, Sept. 3, 2020. Photo by Flash90.

The Palestinians’ revived application for full membership at the United Nations appears to be dead on arrival.

Before the U.N. Security Council even began its meeting on Monday morning to discuss the application, Washington poured cold water all over their hopes. 

“Our position is that the issue of full Palestinian membership is a decision that should be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians,” deputy U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Robert Wood told reporters. “It was a final-status issue under Oslo. They need to work out an agreement and that’s how full membership should come about.” 

As one of the five permanent UNSC members, the United States holds veto power, which Wood signaled it was prepared to use in this case.

Nevertheless, the UNSC emerged from behind closed doors late Monday morning having decided to refer the petition to the Committee on the Admission of New Members, which, by long-standing practice, must agree by consensus to advance a membership application to a full UNSC vote.

Convening on Monday afternoon, the Committee, comprising one representative from each of the 15 UNSC members, failed to reach a consensus, however, thus stalling the process. 

It is unclear whether members other than the United States also indicated they would reject the application, though when speaking with media, including JNS, diplomats requesting anonymity described Monday’s meetings as difficult. 

The long-dormant application, filed in 2011, has been revived in recent days, as the Palestinians seek to push for full membership in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre. Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza has drawn harsh criticism from global diplomats, resulting in the Palestinians seeing an opening to upgrade their U.N. non-state observer status achieved in 2012.

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, told reporters that the Security Council intends to deal with the Palestinian application in a matter of “days, perhaps a week,” with the Palestinians previously announcing a target date of Apr. 18 for a full UNSC vote.

The UNSC announced that the Committee on the Admission of New Members will meet again on Thursday afternoon.

Even if it fails to advance the application, any Security Council member can individually introduce a resolution to bring it to a full UNSC vote, which would require at least nine votes of approval and no permanent member vetoes to succeed.

Algeria, which holds the de-facto Security Council seat representing the Arab and Muslim world, indicated it would pick up that mantle.

Amar Bendjama, Algeria’s U.N. envoy, when asked late Monday by media whether his country would be drafting a resolution, said, “Not yet. But soon.”

Should the application advance out of the Security Council, it would head to the 193-member U.N. General Assembly, where it would assuredly garner the two-thirds majority support necessary for final passage.

During a separate General Assembly session on the Israel-Hamas war on Monday morning, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan ripped member states for even considering the application

Erdan said the United Nations “has committed itself to reinforcing modern-day Nazi jihadists” by “rewarding terror” in seeking to grant Palestinian-statehood recognition in the aftermath of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

“If Hitler were alive today, he would be singing the U.N.’s praises,” Erdan said, adding that the Palestinians fail to meet several requirements of U.N. statehood recognition, including one stating that membership is open to all peace-loving states.

Noting the Palestinian Authority’s “pay-for-slay” policy, which grants salaries to terrorists who kill and maim Israelis, and scales the stipends to reward deadlier crimes and the longer prison sentences that go with them, Erdan said, “Internalize it…You murder more Jews, you get more money.”

Asked by JNS during a session with the press on Monday whether he believed reports of talks between Washington and Ramallah on reforming the pay-for-slay policy were substantive, Erdan demurred.

“We are grateful to everything that the American administration has been doing to support peace and security in our region,” he began, going on to express skepticism that P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas—who has repeatedly said he would use the P.A.’s “last penny” to provide for pay-for-slay salaries—would agree to the reported reforms. These would involve, among other things, a shift from rewarding lengthier prison sentences to a more general “welfare” program for prisoners.

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