General Assembly endorses pathway for full Palestinian statehood at UN

UN General Assembly delivers near-unanimous approval of Palestine’s qualification for full UN-member status

MEE staff

The new draft resolution determines that the State of Palestine is “qualified for membership in the United Nations” and should therefore be admitted to membership (Reuters)

The United Nations General Assembly has voted in favour of granting “new rights and privileges” to the state of Palestine, paving a pathway to full UN-member status.

At Friday’s emergency session at the 49th meeting of the UN General Assembly, 143 countries voted in favour of upgrading Palestine’s status at the United Nations, with nine voting against and 25 abstentions.

Israel and the US voted against the resolution.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said on Monday, that if the measure was approved, he expected the US to cut funding to the United Nations and its institutions, in accordance with American law.

The ambassador also brought a small paper shredder to the podium and shredded the UN charter to symbolise how Israel views Friday’s “destructive” vote.

Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Riyad Mansour spoke of a day when Palestine “takes its rightful place among free nations”.

The resolution calls on the Security Council to reconsider the request for Palestine to become the 194th member of the United Nations. The United States vetoed a Security Council resolution on 18 April that would have paved the way for full membership.

The resolution does not give Palestine full UN membership but recognises it as qualified to join. 

The resolution points out that it is done “on an exceptional basis and without setting a precedent”, which discourages other hopefuls like Kosovo or Taiwan from employing the same strategy at the UN. 

In defence of their vote, the United States maintained its position that full Palestinian statehood and full UN membership should come as a result of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. 

Robert A Wood, US ambassador to the UN, said the resolution does not “resolve the concerns about the Palestine membership application raised in April at the Security Council”.

The US also threatened that if the UN Security Council reconsiders its vote on Palestine’s member status, it will once again exercise its veto.

“The Palestinian people have been denied their right to self-determination since 1947. This assembly can partly address this historical injustice by admitting Palestine as a full member of the United Nations. It meets all the criteria of membership,” Munir Akram, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, said. 

France declared it is in favour of Palestine to be admitted as a full member. 

What does this mean in practice?

The new draft resolution determines that the State of Palestine is “qualified for membership in the United Nations” and should therefore be admitted to membership.

The resolution is being viewed as a way to circumvent the United Nations Security Council in taking a first step towards full membership.

Most remarkably the resolution looks to adopt new rights and privileges for Palestine in procedural matters at the UN, despite the state’s continuing “observer status”, and requests the UN secretary general to implement these privileges.

New privileges also include the right to make statements on behalf of a group, to submit proposals and amendments and introduce them orally, the right of reply, as well as co-sponsor proposals and amendments and to raise procedural motions, among others. 

It also grants members of the Palestinian delegation to be elected as officers in the plenary and main committees of the General Assembly.

It does not grant Palestine the right to vote in the GA, propose resolutions or put forward its candidature to UN organs.

It also gives the right to “full and effective participation in United Nations conferences and international conferences and meetings convened under the auspices of the General Assembly”.

The state of Palestine would also be able to be seated among member states in alphabetical order and have the right to be listed as speakers on agenda items other than the Middle East or Palestine. 

After the UN General Assembly vote, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Palestine would “continue its endeavour” to obtain full UN membership status and is looking for another vote at the UNSC.

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