July 19, 2024

The United States blocked the U.N. Security Council on Thursday from moving forward on a Palestinian bid to be recognized as a full member state at the United Nations, quashing an effort by Palestinian allies to get the world body to back the effort.

The vote was 12 in favor of the resolution and one — the United States — opposed, with abstentions from Britain and Switzerland.

The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, had described the bid for full-member status as an effort “to take our rightful place among the community of nations.”

After the vote, Mr. Mansour, visibly upset, delivered a passionate address asserting the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.

“Our right to self determination is a natural right — a historical right — to live in our homeland Palestine as an independent state that is free and that is sovereign,” he said.

Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, said after the vote: “The shameful proposal was rejected. Terrorism will not be rewarded.”

The Security Council has consistently called for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a result that has failed to materialize during negotiations between the two sides. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in Tokyo on Friday morning that the new resolution would not have brought a two-state solution closer.

“The resolution provides for the Palestinian Authority to be a member of the U.N.,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield told reporters. “Right now, the Palestinians don’t have control over a significant portion of what is supposed to be their state. It’s being controlled by a terrorist organization,” she said, referring to Hamas.

The United States, along with the four other permanent members of the Council, can veto any action before it. On Thursday afternoon, during a high-profile Council meeting to address issues in the Middle East, including the Palestinian bid for full U.N. membership, the United States, a staunch ally of Israel’s, wielded that veto.

The resolution had asked the 15-member Security Council to recommend to the 193-member U.N. General Assembly that “the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations,” diplomats said. To pass, the application needed to be approved by the Security Council with at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, Britain, France, Russia or China. Then, at least two-thirds of the General Assembly would have had to approve it.

Full Palestinian membership in the U.N. would be an important if largely symbolic victory for the Palestinian Authority, which has long sought a nation-state. Had the Palestinian application been accepted, the new status would have brought the privileges of U.N. membership, including voting rights and a rotating seat on the Security Council.

Many of the most critical issues regarding a Palestinian state, however, would not have been resolved, including physical borders and recognition by individual countries with which it would have needed to establish diplomatic relations.

Israel was admitted as a full U.N. member in 1949. The Palestinian Authority has been seeking a state made up of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip for decades; those territories have all been captured or annexed by Israel.

Little progress has been made on achieving Palestinian statehood since Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s, which established a peace process aimed at a two-state solution. In 2007, Hamas drove the Palestinian Authority, which President Mahmoud Abbas leads and which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, from power in the Gaza Strip.

Complicating the Palestinian application for statehood is the war that began when Hamas led terrorist attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 that killed about 1,200 people and prompted Israel’s retaliatory attacks in Gaza, which have killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and displaced more than one million people. The conflict has spilled into the occupied West Bank and neighboring countries like Lebanon and has drawn Iran into the fray.

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