The UN Security Council, the General Assembly, and Palestinian Statehood

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said today he would seek UN Security Council recognition for a Palestinian state.

Palestinian leaders are expected to take their bid for statehood to the United Nations next week, potentially provoking a diplomatic showdown that could have serious consequences for Israel, Palestine, and the United States.  The UN Security Council has the power to approve Palestine’s admission as a full member state, but the United States is one of five veto-wielding permanent members of the council (along with Russia, China, Britain, and France), and the U.S. has promised to veto any resolution approving Palestinian statehood.  The U.S. and Israeli position is that Palestinian statehood should be achieved through direct negotiations with Israel.  Despite this veto threat, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said today that he would seek Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state.

While the Security Council effort is destined to fail, Palestine could gain a partial victory through the UN General Assembly.  The General Assembly has the power to upgrade Palestine’s status from “observer entity” to “observer state,” and such a resolution will almost certainly succeed since each UN member state gets one vote in the General Assembly (the majority of member states back Palestinian statehood).  As this article at Politico notes, “with that enhanced status, the Palestinians could take some actions against Israel, including filing cases in the International Criminal Court [ICC].”  The prospect of ICC charges stemming from Israeli actions is discussed here.

A Foreign Policy article entitled “ Train Wreck in Turtle Bay” describes the costs to all parties of a diplomatic clash over Palestinian statehood: “A diplomatic confrontation is not in the interest of any party. For Israel, it could prompt an outburst of public anger and possible violence in the occupied territories that would be a security challenge at home and deepen its growing isolation abroad. For Palestinians, it could mean a return to more restrictive forms of control by Israeli occupation authorities, more checkpoints and roadblocks, as well as other forms of retaliation, including punitive economic measures. For the United States, it risks bringing back traditional anti-American sentiment front and center to Arab political discourse at a time when the country has been increasingly perceived as a positive force standing with the people against dictators.”

What do you think?  Is the Palestinian effort to achieve statehood through the UN a wise idea, or will any statehood effort be counterproductive if it does not first gain Israel’s approval?

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