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UN General Assembly backs Palestinian bid for full membership

The United Nations General Assembly on Friday backed a Palestinian bid to become a full UN member by recognising it as qualified to join and recommending the Security Council “reconsider the matter favourably”.

The vote by the 193-member General Assembly was a global survey of support for the Palestinian bid to become a full UN member – a move that would effectively recognise a Palestinian state – after the United States vetoed it in the UN Security Council last month.

The assembly adopted a resolution on Friday with 143 votes in favour (including Ireland) and nine against (including the US and Israel) while 25 countries abstained. It does not give the Palestinians full UN membership, but simply recognises them as qualified to join.

The General Assembly resolution “determines that the State of Palestine … should therefore be admitted to membership” and it “recommends that the Security Council reconsider the matter favourably”.

The Palestinian push for full UN membership comes seven months into a war between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and as Israel is expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank, which the UN considers to be illegal.

“We want peace, we want freedom,” Palestinian UN ambassador Riyad Mansour told the General Assembly before the vote. “A yes vote is a vote for Palestinian existence, it is not against any state … It is an investment in peace.”

“Voting yes is the right thing to do,” he said in remarks that drew applause.

Under the founding UN Charter, membership is open to “peace-loving states” that accept the obligations in that document and are able and willing to carry them out.

“As long as so many of you are ‘Jew-hating,’ you don’t really care that the Palestinians are not ‘peace-loving,’” said Israeli UN ambassador Gilad Erdan, who spoke after Mr Mansour. He accused the assembly of shredding the UN Charter – as he used a small shredder to destroy a copy of the charter while at the lectern.

“Shame on you,” Mr Erdan said.

An application to become a full UN member first needs to be approved by the 15-member Security Council and then the General Assembly. If the measure is again voted on by the council it is likely to face the same fate: a US veto.

“The council must respond to the will of the international community,” United Arab Emirates UN ambassador Mohamed Abushahab told the assembly before the vote.

Deputy US ambassador to the UN Robert Wood told the General Assembly after the vote that unilateral measures at the UN and on the ground will not advance a two-state solution.

“Our vote does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood; we have been very clear that we support it and seek to advance it meaningfully. Instead, it is an acknowledgment that statehood will only come from a process that involves direct negotiations between the parties,” he said.

The United Nations has long endorsed a vision of two states living side by side within secure and recognised borders. Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, all territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war with neighbouring Arab states.

The General Assembly resolution adopted on Friday does give the Palestinians some additional rights and privileges from September 2024 – such as a seat among the UN members in the assembly hall – but they will not be granted a vote in the body.

The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a de facto recognition of statehood that was granted by the UN General Assembly in 2012.

They are represented at the UN by the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank. Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority from power in Gaza in 2007. Hamas – which has a charter calling for Israel’s destruction – launched the October 7th attack on Israel that triggered Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Mr Erdan said on Monday that, if the General Assembly adopted the resolution, he expected Washington to cut funding to the United Nations and its institutions.

Under US law, Washington cannot fund any UN organisation that grants full membership to any group that does not have the “internationally recognised attributes” of statehood. The United States cut funding in 2011 for the UN cultural agency, Unesco, after the Palestinians joined as a full member.

Welcoming the vote, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said: “There is a long road ahead. But in today’s vote we have heard the voice of the world say unambiguously that it is time for Palestine to take its rightful place among the nations of the world.” – Reuters


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