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 9 (with 41 abstentions) in favor of granting Palestine non-memeber 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.
While the Palestinians exercise formal control over the territories of Gaza and the West Bank (and claim East Jerusalem as their capital), formal recognition of statehood has yet to be realized. Successive U.S. presidents have made numerous attempts to facilitate the "peace process," and yet there has been no peace nor the formation of a Palestinian state. Much of the problem stems from the fact that the U.S. is far from an impartial arbiter. Each year, the U.S. sends billions of dollars in unconditional aid and weapons to Israel. Both the Democratic and Republican parties compete to be viewed as more pro-Israel than the other, and this stems from the substantial influence of the Israeli lobby in Washington, led by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.
Both the U.S. and Israel have decried Palestine's "unilateral" attempt at gaining recognition — a curious charge considering that the UNGA is an inherently (and perhaps the ultimate) multilateral means of gaining statehood. The margin of victory for the draft resolution serves as a stark reminder of how out of step the U.S. and Israel are with most of the rest of the world when it comes to the question of Palestine. In October 2011, the U.S. withdrew funding from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after it voted to admit Palestine as a member.
Moments before the vote, representatives from Palestinian and Israel addressed the assembly. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decreed the recent Israeli air strikes on Gaza. "This aggression also confirms the Israeli Government’s adherence to the policy of occupation, brute force and war," he said, "which in turn obliges the international community to shoulder its responsibilities toward the Palestinian people and toward peace."
Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor addressed the assembly immediately following Abbas, and declared, "No decision by the UN can break the 4,000 year old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel." He called on the Palestinians to enter into direct negotiations with Israel, and said that Palestinians, and those who states who voted for the resolution, were not advancing peace, but "undermining" it.
Erstwhile U.S. ally Great Britain abstained in today's vote, while France and Spain voted in favor of the resolution. Canada voted with the U.S. in opposing the measure.