Palestinian Statehood and the United Nations

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly.

Blogging at the UN Dispatch, Mark Goldberg notes that the Palestinian Authority will ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade their status at the United Nations later this month. Palestine previously noted that it would push for United Nations membership, this move appears to be a more moderate (and far more realistic) course of action.

The United States and Israel are likely to be fairly isolated when they vote against Palestine’s application for non-member observer state status. It already enjoys observer status in the United Nations. Its new status would put it in the same category as the Holy See (the Vatican), which has held nonmember state status since 1964.

So why not become a full member?

There are currently 193 member states of the United Nations. According to the UN Charter, membership is “open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.”

More practically, to become a member of the United Nations, a state’s candidacy must be approved by the General Assembly (by two-thirds vote) upon the recommendation of the Security Council.  And there’s the rub. The voting structure of the Security Council grants five countries (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) veto power over the decisions of the body. Any single permanent member the power to block decisions of the group.

This is why, for example, Taiwan has never garnered UN membership; the government of China would block any vote in the Security Council, effectively terminated Taiwan’s application.

In the case of Palestine, the United States would veto the application, ending the process. So Palestine is left with the idea of applying for non-member observer state status, which requires only the approval of the General Assembly.

Global policies is messy, isn’t it.

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