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US vetoes Security Council resolution backing full UN membership for Palestine

The resolution got 12 votes in its favour, with Switzerland and the UK abstaining and the US vetoing against Palestinian membership. Despite supporting a two-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict, the US said that it has to come from direct negotiations between both sides.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New York Published on: April 19, 2024 11:12 IST
UN Security Council, Palestinian UN membership, US veto
Image Source : AP The UN Security Council voting on the draft resolution of Palestinian membership.

New York: The United States has vetoed a widely-supported resolution in the UN Security Council on a Palestinian bid to be granted full membership, effectively blocking the way for the recognition of a Palestinian state. The 15-nation Council voted on the draft resolution on Thursday that would have recommended to the UN General Assembly "that the state of Palestine be admitted to membership in the United Nations".

This was the second Palestinian attempt to become the 194th member of the United Nations, and it comes as the war in Gaza, now in its seventh month, has put the more than 75-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict at centre stage. However, this attempt was expected to fail as the US had been clear that "premature actions" in New York will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people despite the best intentions.

The resolution got 12 votes in its favour, with Switzerland and the UK abstaining and the US casting its veto. To be adopted, the resolution required at least nine Council members voting in its favour, without any vetoes by any of its five permanent members - China, Russia, France, the UK and the US. This means that Palestine will remain a "non-member observer state" at the UN, the status granted by the UNGA in 2012.

Why has the US denied Palestinian UN membership?

Despite widely supporting a two-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict, the US blocked the Palestinian bid for full membership of the UN. "The United States continues to strongly support a two-state solution. This vote does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood but instead is an acknowledgement that it will only come from direct negotiations between the parties," Deputy US Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood told the Security Council, adding that there are “unresolved questions” as to whether Palestine meets the criteria to be considered a State.

“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 organisation – is currently exerting power and influence in Gaza, an integral part of the state envisioned in this resolution,” he said adding that “For these reasons, the United States voted “no” on this Security Council resolution.”

"There is no other path that guarantees Israel’s security and future as a democratic Jewish state. There is no other path that guarantees Palestinians can live in peace and with dignity in a state of their own. And there is no other path that leads to regional integration between Israel and all its Arab neighbours, including Saudi Arabia," Wood added.

Reactions to US decision

It is important that 140 of the 193 members of the UN General Assembly have already recognised Palestine as a state. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the US veto in a statement as "unfair, unethical, and unjustified". Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz commended the United States for casting a veto. Saudi Arabia also expressed regret on Friday over the failure of the UN Security Council to adopt the draft resolution.

An emotional Riyad Mansour, Palestinian UN Ambassador, told the council, "Our right to self-determination is a natural right, a historic right, a legal right. A right to live in our homeland Palestine as an independent state that is free and that is sovereign. Our right to self-determination is inalienable. It is not tied to a time or timeframe. Our right is eternal and continuous, it cannot be delayed. It cannot be suspended and it has no statute of limitations."

"The fact that this resolution did not pass will not break our will and it will not defeat our determination. We will not stop in our effort," he asserted, adding that Palestine’s admission as a full member of the UN is an "investment in peace". Meanwhile, Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan slammed the 12 countries voting in favour of the resolution, saying that their vote will only embolden Palestinian rejectionism.

Hamas condemned the US stance in a statement and called on the international community to "support the struggle of our Palestinian people and their legitimate right to determine their destiny". Notably, Hamas is designated a terrorist organisation in several countries, including the US.

Palestine at the UN

Palestine had first submitted its request for admission as a full UN member in 2011, which failed because the Palestinians didn't get the required minimum support of nine of the Security Council's 15 members. They went to the General Assembly and by more than a two-thirds majority succeeded in having their status raised from a UN observer to a non-member observer state in November 2012.

On April 2, 2024, Palestine again sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requesting that its application for full UN membership be considered again. This came almost six months after the Israel-Hamas war broke out, when Hamas militants killed 1,200 people in Israel. Israel's devastating military assault in Gaza has killed nearly 34,000 people and triggered a humanitarian catastrophe, leaving 85 per cent of the population homeless.

The UN Security Council has long endorsed a vision of two states living side by side within secure and recognized borders. Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, all territory captured by Israel in 1967. Algeria's UN Ambassador Amar Bendjama argued before the vote that admitting Palestinians to the United Nations would strengthen rather than undermine the two-state solution, adding: "Peace will come from Palestine's inclusion, not from its exclusion."

Earlier in the day, Guterres, in his remarks to a Council meeting on the Middle East, warned that the region is on a “knife edge” and said that failure to make progress towards a two-state solution will only increase volatility and risk for hundreds of millions of people across the region.

(with inputs from agencies)

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