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US vetoes Palestinian bid for full UN membership

“Hamas—a terrorist organization—is currently exerting power and influence in Gaza,” said U.S. envoy Robert Wood, explaining why the Palestinans don’t meet the definition of statehood.

Robert Wood, deputy permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations, vetoes the Palestinian bid for admission as a member state of the United Nations at the U.N. Security Council on April 18, 2024. Credit: Manuel Elías/U.N. Photo.
Robert Wood, deputy permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations, vetoes the Palestinian bid for admission as a member state of the United Nations at the U.N. Security Council on April 18, 2024. Credit: Manuel Elías/U.N. Photo.

As expected, the United States vetoed the Palestinian bid for full U.N. membership during a vote at the U.N. Security Council on Thursday afternoon.

Of the 15 members of the council, 12 voted for a Palestinian state, including Japan, South Korea, France and Slovenia which don’t currently recognize a Palestinian state. The United Kingdom and Switzerland abstained on the Algeria-drafted resolution.

As one of the five permanent members of the council, Washington has veto power.

Washington has “long been clear that premature actions here in New York, even with the best intentions, will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people,” Robert Wood, deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council on Thursday.

Wood cited the failure of the council’s committee on new members to reach a consensus on the issue. He also questioned whether the Palestinians meet the basic criteria for U.N. statehood—questions that prevented the committee from reaching consensus on the original application for full Palestinian U.N. membership in 2011.

“We have long called on the Palestinian Authority to undertake necessary reforms to help establish the attributes of readiness for statehood and note that Hamas—a terrorist organization—is currently exerting power and influence in Gaza, an integral part of the state envisioned in this resolution,” Wood said.

The Palestinians became the first membership applicant to be turned away by a council vote since Vietnam when the United States voted against its membership in 1976 before relenting the next year.

By U.S. law, full membership for Ramallah at the United Nations outside a political settlement with Israel would automatically terminate U.S. funding for the United Nations.

“For Washington, they do not deserve to have their own state,” Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s U.N. envoy, said of the Palestinians. “They are only a barrier on the path towards realizing the interests of Israel.”

Barbara Woodward, the United Kingdom’s representative to the United Nations, explained London’s abstention. “We must keep our focus on securing an immediate pause in order to get aid in and hostages out, then making progress towards a sustainable ceasefire without a return to destruction, fighting and loss of life,” she said.

Woodward also described Hamas’s control of Gaza and its holding of hostages as antithetical to the recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Multiple media outlets reported that the Biden administration had been applying pressure on other countries to vote no to avoid being isolated.

Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, rebuked the Security Council for even entertaining a Palestinian member state.  

“The child-murdering Hamas rapists are watching this meeting and they are smiling,” Erdan said at a council meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian file ahead of the vote.

“There is no bigger prize for terror for today’s meeting,” Erdan said.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in New York on April 18, 2024 Credit: Evan Schneider/U.N. Photo.

Erdan also criticized the Security Council for welcoming Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Iranian foreign minister, to the ministerial-level session, which drew high-ranking diplomats from around the world.

Amir-Abdollahian was granted a U.S. visa under Washington’s responsibilities as the U.N.’s host country, despite criticism that Iran’s top diplomat is a security risk. His arrival also came just days after Iran launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel, which a coalition of Western and Arab partners repelled.

“He is here to make a mockery of you,” Erdan said of the Iranian official. “He is here to show you all, in your nice suits and with your diplomatic niceties, that his country can launch an attack on another member state on a Saturday, and then he can come here on Thursday to lecture you all on human rights and international law.”

Amir-Abdollahian threatened before the council that any retaliation for Tehran’s attack would lead to “a decisive and proper response” to make Israel “regret its actions.”

“This is an unchangeable decision,” he said.

On Friday morning local time, Israel reportedly attacked Iran. The Jewish state had not confirmed the attack at press time.

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