UN set to back Palestinian bid for membership

The United Nations General Assembly on Friday is set to back a Palestinian bid to become a full UN member by recognising it as qualified to join and sending the application back to the UN Security Council to “reconsider the matter favourably.”

The Palestinians are reviving their bid to become a full UN member – a move that would effectively recognise a Palestinian state – after the United States vetoed it in the 15-member UN Security Council last month.

The vote by the 193-member General Assembly on Friday will act as a global survey of support for the Palestinians. An application to become a full UN member must first be approved by the Security Council and then the General Assembly.

But while the General Assembly alone cannot grant full UN membership, the draft resolution being put to a vote on Friday will give the Palestinians some additional rights and privileges from September 2024 – like a seat among the UN members in the assembly hall – but it will not be granted a vote in the body.

Diplomats said the draft text will likely get the support needed to be adopted.

The Palestinian push for full UN membership comes seven months into a war on Gaza, and as Israel is expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank, which the UN considers to be illegal.

The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a de facto recognition of statehood granted by the UN General Assembly in 2012.

US Funding

The Palestinian UN mission in New York said on Thursday, in a letter to UN member states, that adoption of the draft resolution backing full UN membership would be an investment in preserving the long-sought-for two-state solution.

It said it would “constitute a clear reaffirmation of support at this very critical moment for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State.”

The mission is run by the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank. Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority from power in Gaza in 2007.

The United Nations has long endorsed a vision of two states living side by side within secure and recognised borders. Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, all territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war with neighbouring Arab states.

The US mission to the United Nations said earlier this week: “It remains the US view that the path toward statehood for the Palestinian people is through direct negotiations.”

Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan on Monday denounced the draft text for attempting to give the Palestinians the de facto status and rights of a state. He said adopting the text would not change anything on the ground.

“If it is approved, I expect the United States to completely stop funding the UN and its institutions by American law,” said Erdan.

Under US law, Washington cannot fund any UN organisation that grants full membership to any group that does not have the “internationally recognised attributes” of statehood. The United States cut funding in 2011 for the UN cultural agency, UNESCO, after the Palestinians joined as a full member.

On Thursday, 25 US Republican senators, more than half of the party’s members in the chamber, introduced a bill to tighten those restrictions and cut off funding to any entity giving rights and privileges to the Palestinians. The bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, controlled by President Joe Biden’s Democrats.

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