UN Palestine Membership: Why Palestinians Are Giving Up A Lot to Be Recognized at the UN

On Thursday, the United Nations will vote on a proposal by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas granting Palestine the title of “non-member state,” ending its role as “permanent observer” and bringing its people closer to a defined national identity on the world stage. 

In order for the dispossessed people of Palestine to fully ascend to the rank of recognized statehood, however, Palestinians must now come to terms with their original sin. 

To be clear, Thursday is a momentous day for Palestinians everywhere. Incidentally, though, tomorrow is the 65th anniversary of November 29th, 1947, the day the United Nations adopted a resolution to plan for the partition of Palestine into two countries, Israel and a modern Palestine. At the time, the Arabs wholeheartedly rejected this arrangement and declared the UN to be a Western colonial construct designed to further Zionist ambitions in the Middle East. 

As I have written before, this was a major mistake that resulted in decades of conflict. The United Nations, then as in now, is a multinational legislative body that allows the voices of its members to be heard on far ranging issues relevant to global affairs. It is designed to maintain peace, and to that effect enhance cooperation between nations. Non-members may seek to join it to provide a voice in steering the course of international politics, but in doing so they acknowledge its legitimacy. 

Clearly, Palestinians are moving in that direction, and with that an understanding of their role in the conflict with Israel that has raged on and off since Israel’s inception. 

Present Israeli leadership will bemoan this unilateral move proposed by President Abbas as both pointless and divisive. That is misguided, however, for along with Palestine’s bid for “non-member statehood” will come an increase in responsibilities for Palestinian leadership.

Achieving “non-member state” status will not make it any more acceptable to launch rockets across the border into Israel. It will not legitimize infiltrating Israel with trained bombers, suicide or otherwise. President Abbas, and his Hamas “partners” in Gaza, will be even more-so expected to prevent aggressive missteps that led to the conflict with Israel just this past month. They will be held accountable for rogue agents in their territory as long as they hope to seek permanent statehood recognition in the United Nations.

Furthermore, Palestinian legitimacy will make it more difficult for outside Arab leaders to manipulate the Palestinian cause in order to antagonize Israel. A state that can represent itself in the world will not require the voices of so many other Arab leaders to speak for it, thus ensuring that its message does not become clouded by other agendas, benefiting needy Palestinians at the cost to entrenched Arab autocrats.

Perhaps most importantly, with U.N. recognition will come a shedding of the mantle of victimhood that has been worn since the Arabs declared war on the newly-created Israel in the spring of 1948. That is not to say that individual Palestinians have had an easy go of it for the past 60-odd years; by all accounts, Palestinians are trying to overcome an incredibly difficult past that saw opposition on all fronts. Palestinians achieving their much-sought-after goal of recognition at the UN, though, will lend credibility to the Israeli narrative of victimhood in the face of overwhelming Arab adversity since the dawn of its creation.

President Abbas began the process last year when he confessed that Arabs were at fault for not accepting the terms of the initial UN Partition Plan. That was a surprising and welcome first step. With semi-statehood status approaching, Palestinians at-large will hopefully follow suit. If that happens, it would behoove Israelis to see the benefits of Thursday’s UN vote.

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Daniel Bender

Daniel received his BA in International Affairs from the George Washington University in 2009. He has traveled extensively throughout India, Egypt, Israel, and Turkey and his academic and writing interests include Middle Eastern politics, geography, philosophy, and history.

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