U.N. General Assembly Votes to Back Palestinian Membership Bid

The United Nations General Assembly on Friday overwhelmingly adopted a resolution declaring that Palestinians qualify for full-members status at the United Nations, a highly symbolic move that reflects growing global solidarity with Palestinians and is a rebuke to Israel and the United States.

The resolution was approved by a vote of 143 to 9 with 25 nations abstaining. The Assembly broke into a big applause after the vote.

But the resolution does not mean a Palestinian state will be recognized and admitted to the United Nations as a full member anytime soon. The Assembly can only grant full membership with the approval of the Security Council, and, if history is a guide, the United States would almost inevitably wield its veto power to kill such a measure, as it did in April.

Even though a majority in the General Assembly have long supported Palestinian statehood, the resolution was the first time the body had voted on the issue of full membership. The resolution declares that “the State of Palestine is qualified for membership in the United Nations” under its charter rules and recommends that the Security Council reconsider the matter with a favorable outcome.

The resolution was prepared by the United Arab Emirates, the current chair of the U.N. Arab Group, and sponsored by 70 countries. The United States voted no, along with Hungary, Argentina, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia and Nauru.

“The vast majority of countries in this hall are fully aware of the legitimacy of the Palestinian bid and the justness of their cause, which faces fierce attempts to suppress it and render it meaningless today,” said the U.A.E. ambassador, Mohamed Abushahab, as he introduced the resolution on behalf of the Arab Group.

Though largely symbolic, the resolution does provide Palestinians with new diplomatic privileges. Palestinians can now sit among member states in alphabetical order; they can speak at General Assembly meetings on any topic instead of being limited to Palestinian affairs; they can submit proposals and amendments; and they can participate at U.N. conferences and international meetings organized by the Assembly and other United Nations entities.

The 193-member General Assembly took up the issue of Palestinian membership after the United States in April vetoed a resolution before the Security Council that would have recognized full membership for a Palestinian state. While a majority of council members supported the move, the United States said recognition of Palestinian statehood should be achieved through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Frustration with the United States has been brewing for months among many senior U.N. officials and diplomats, including from allies such as France, because Washington has repeatedly blocked cease-fire resolutions at the Security Council and has staunchly supported Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, even as civilian suffering has mounted.

“The U.S. is resigned to having another bad day at the U.N.,” said Richard Gowan, an expert on the U.N. for the International Crisis Group, a conflict prevention organization. But he added that the resolution “gives the Palestinians a boost without creating a breakdown over whether they are or are not now U.N. members.”

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., told the Assembly ahead of the vote that Palestinians’ right to full membership at the U.N. and statehood “are not up for negotiations, they are our inherent rights as Palestinians.” He added that a vote against Palestinian statehood was a vote against the two-state solution.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, a sharp critic of the U.N., said voting for a Palestinian state would be inviting “a state of terror” in its midst and rewarding “terrorists” who killed Jewish civilians with privileges and called member states endorsing it “Jew haters.”

Robert A. Wood, a U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said that while the U.S. supported a two-state solution as the only means for sustainable peace, “it remains the U.S. view that unilateral measures at the U.N. and on the ground will not advance this goal.”

Mr. Wood said that if the Assembly referred the issue back to the Council, it would have the same outcome again with the U.S. blocking the move.

The Palestinians are currently recognized by the U.N. as a nonmember observer state, a status granted to them in 2012 by the General Assembly. They do not have the right to vote on General Assembly resolutions or nominate any candidates to U.N. agencies.

France, a close U.S. ally and one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, has supported the Palestinian bid for statehood breaking away from United States’ stance at the U.N. both at the Council and the Assembly vote. “The time has come for the United Nations to take action with a view to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on the basis of the two-state solution,” said Nicolas de Rivière, France’s ambassador to the U.N., in his address on Friday.

The Assembly session, which was expected to flow over to Monday because of the long list of speakers, was not without moments of performative drama.

Mr. Erdan, Israel’s ambassador, held up the picture of Hamas’s military leader, Yahya Sinwar, considered the architect of the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, with the word “President,” and then a transparent shredder, inserting a piece of paper inside it, and said the member states were “shredding the U.N. charter.”

Mr. Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador, at the end of his speech raised his fist in the air, visibly chocking back tears, and said “Free Palestine.” The Assembly broke into applause.

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