On Thursday this week, the United Nations General Assembly will address Palestine’s bid to upgrade their status to a nonmember observer state. After decades of failed negotiations with Israel, the new bid could strengthen the Palestinian statehood claims and make the protracted conflict an international issue.
Last year’s Palestinian bid for full UN membership fell amid opposition from the U.S. and Israel, although it saw the acceptance of Palestine into UNESCO. This year, the new bid only needs a majority vote in the 193-member General Assembly. While Israel has lobbied against the bid, it will likely end up being successful as most countries have expressed support for the bid. France and Spain have already indicated it will vote yes on the resolution, while not surprisingly, the U.S. will vote against it.
The U.S. and Israel vehemently oppose the UN bid, believing that the only route to Palestinian statehood is through direct peace talks with Israel. However, for Palestinians, it has become extremely difficult to negotiate with Israel as it violates international law with continued settlement building on Palestinian land. Couple with the blockade on Gaza, which recently saw an Israeli bombardment in retaliation for rockets fired by Hamas, it has become a very delicate situation. The recent violence in Gaza and Israel claimed the lives of 179 people in total, 173 Palestinians, which include 13 women and 43 children, and 6 Israelis, 2 of them soldiers.
The U.S.’s unequivocal support for Israel has also become a big issue of contention. Israel’s excessive use of force and inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people makes the U.S. complacent in these actions as well. A former IDF chief even pointed out that U.S. taxpayers have contributed more to the Israeli defense budget than Israeli taxpayers. It’s perplexing to think that at a time when America’s national debt is at its worst, it still continues to provide $3 billion in unconditional foreign aid to Israel, a nation that carries on land, sea and air assaults on an indigenous population.
The renewed UN bid has become a new course of action for the Palestinians in establishing grounding in their claims on statehood in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. The enhanced UN status will also allow them to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move that undoubtedly worries Israel. Already international law has deemed Israeli settlements in the occupied territories illegal, in addition to the wall and changes created by Israel by force in East Jerusalem. By reaffirming international legitimacy of Palestinians rights, the new status will allow Palestine more opportunities in pursuing self-determination.
The UK has expressed that it will support the bid on the condition that the Palestinians renounce applying to the ICC. However, the PA has refused the condition, although it has said it will address the matter at a later time.
Stayed tuned for live-updates from the UN on the Palestinian bid.
Below are LIVE updates of the United Nations General Assembley Vote:
Once again, the United States and Israel found themselves in the wrong end of a lop-sided vote in the United Nations General Assembly, as the international body voted 138 to 41 (with 9 abstentions) in favor of granting Palestine non-memmber observer state status — an upgrade from their current status as UN observer. The vote on the draft resolution came on the 65th anniversary of another UNGA vote, which called for the petition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state once the British mandate over the territory expired. In 1948, the state of Israel was created explicitly as a state for Jewish people. However, statehood for the Palestinians has remained elusive.
After the vote, U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice criticized the vote from her seat in the assembly, saying, "Today's grand pronouncement will soon fade and that the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find little has changed except the chance for a durable peace has receded."
Rice went on to ridicule the Palestinian action as "unilateral," a strange use of the term, considering that the Palestinians took their case to an international governing body, and their bid for statehood received 138 out of a possible 188 votes.
4:40 pm: This is Palestine's normal seat:
4:06pm: "Every voice among you supporting our endeavor is the most valued voice of courage." -Abbas
3:50 pm: "Palestine comes today to the General Assembly because it believes in peace... Palestine comes today at a defining moment in order to reaffirm its presence and try to protect the possibilities of peace in our region." - Abbas
People gather in front of a poster of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in support of the Palestinian UN bid for observer status, in the West Bank city of Hebron, Nov. 29, 2012
3:38 pm: In a Gallup poll in February, Americans favored rather than opposed the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by a 14 point margin, 51 vs. 37 percent. The rest had no opinion.
3:30 pm: This is happening: The UN General Assembly is expected to approve Palestinians' request to be upgraded to a "non-member observer state" in a vote this morning.
Of the 193 countries in the General Assembly 132 have already recognized Palestine, so the request has a good chance of passing, despite the efforts of the United States and Israel to stop it.
The historic vote would recognize Palestine as a state and give Palestine the right to join U.N. agencies, and could become a party to the International Criminal Court, allowing them to bring cases against Israel.
A copy of the resolution "Status of Palestine in the United Nations" - can be found here.
2 pm: Abbas Arriving at the UN:
(Photo courtesy of Dillon Zhou)