trib logo

Palestine’s UN membership: Political theater continues

UN vote on full membership for Palestine.
Special to

By John J. Metzler, May 21, 2024

The United Nations General Assembly massively endorsed a plan which brings the State of Palestine one step closer to full membership in the 193-member multinational body. In a lopsided vote of 143 to 9 with 23 abstentions, the Assembly passed a resolution which seemingly puts Palestine on the long-awaited path to membership.

Well, to a point.

The vote during the Tenth Emergency Special Session on Palestine, presented a classic piece of political theater where a whopping majority of 143 countries including much of Europe, as well as the Global South and the usual progressive regimes endorsed a draft resolution which sends the Palestine question to the powerful fifteen-member Security Council for a political blessing. Currently, Palestine already holds non-voting UN Observer status since 2012.

Set inside a tense but not overflowing General Assembly hall, with the political trappings of high drama, speeches calling for redressing historical grievances flowed forth. Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine speaking passionately before the vote stated, “A ‘yes’ vote is a vote for Palestinian existence; it is not against any State, but it is against attempts to deprive us of our State.” He added that such a move would be an investment in peace.

Israel’s Ambassador Gilad Erdan stated sarcastically, “Today, you have a choice between weakness and fighting terror,” adding that the UN is appeasing “murderous dictators” and destroying the UN Charter. “This day will go down in infamy,” he intoned solemnly.

In closing while still at the rostrum, the Israeli Ambassador held up a mini electric document shredder and inserted the cover of the UN Charter and shredded it to the disbelieving eyes of assembled diplomats.

Russia’s delegate Vassily Nebenzia offered some irony, saying Palestine deserves nothing less than full membership at the UN. “It is the moral duty of everyone,” he said.

But wait, they got the process the wrong way round! The UN Charter cites that membership “is open to all other peace-loving States which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter.” But the process goes <em>first </em>to the Security Council, and if it is not blocked by one of the permanent five members (China, France, Russia, United States, or the United Kingdom) only then proceeds to the full General Assembly for affirmation.

This seemingly simple procedure was attempted in April when the case for full Palestine membership was vetoed by the United States, sending the whole process into political tailspin. When the Palestine membership issue returns to the Security Council, Washington is almost certain to use its Veto to stop the move. The U.S. favors a phased in Two State Solution as the best path to peace.

Though the UN Charter allows for “Peace loving states” to join the organization, the Hamas terrorist record, makes the claim absurdly moot. The old Palestine Authority Government which theoretically controls Gaza is not in charge having been ousted by the terrorist Hamas movement who holds de facto leadership.  Hamas loathsome terror against Israeli civilians (and often fellow Palestinians) after October 7th, disqualifies and disgraces the de facto Gaza rulers for UN membership in New York but should instead fast track them to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Here’s some political math; Clearly the vote was a serious setback for the U.S. State Department, and obviously an isolated Israel who were clearly trying to get a few more votes against the draft resolution and many more abstentions. Of the 9 no votes besides the U.S. and Israel, the only two European countries supporting Washington were the Czech Republic and Hungary, and also Argentina.

Of those close allies supporting Palestine membership included France, Denmark, Poland, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Naturally states ranging from Russia and China to Brazil, India and Pakistan backed the move too.

Among the 23 abstentions included Austria, Canada, Italy, Germany, UK, and Ukraine.

Many countries rationalized their decision based on the resolution which doesn’t give Palestine formal voting rights in the General Assembly but rather a more enhanced standing beyond its current Observer status.

Still, Palestine's UN Seat is all about symbolism and political legitimacy for a Hamas terrorist regime who still forcibly holds Israeli hostages, among them Americans.

Exhibiting its foreign policy incoherence, the Biden Administration has shamelessly undercut Israel’s vital military resupply line, widening the political rift between the U.S. and Israel, but has held firm on the diplomatic front where the Administration is increasingly isolated.

Tragically Gaza’s grim war continues. But there are no winners on either side.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). [See pre-2011 Archives]
palvote by is licensed under Screen Grab UN Photo

Get latest news delivered daily!

We will send you breaking news right to your inbox

This website uses essential cookies for site operation. We would also like to set optional cookies to help us improve our site and to analyze web traffic, as described in the Privacy Compliance. You may accept or reject the use of optional cookies by clicking the Accept or Reject button.