Middle East Crisis: U.S. Vetoes Palestinian Bid for Recognition as Full U.N. Member State

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A draft resolution that the United States vetoed at the U.N. Security Council on Thursday afternoon was the latest frustrated effort in a long-running campaign to secure recognition for Palestinian statehood.

Still, that the matter made it to a Security Council vote at all reflects how the debate over Palestinian statehood has been reinvigorated by the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The United Nations voted in 1947 to create an independent Arab state alongside a Jewish one, but the plan was rejected by neighboring Arab governments and Palestinian Arabs, and the state of Israel was founded amid a war the following year. In the years since, plans for a two-state solution have been repeatedly proposed and stymied.

Here’s a look at some of the Palestinian efforts to gain recognition.

The Palestinians have observer status at the United Nations

Palestine became a member of UNESCO in 2011 but a bid for full U.N. membership failed. The next year, Palestine was granted the lesser status of observer at the United Nations, a level shared by the Holy See.

Observers can participate in U.N. General Assembly sessions but are not allowed to vote. They also can join the International Court of Justice, which is currently hearing a case on the legality of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Palestine is also party to a number of treaties, and became a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2018.

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, with a copy of a letter requesting Palestine’s full admission to the United Nations at the General Assembly in 2011.Credit…Timothy A. Clary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

What prompted the latest push?

With the war raging in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority asked the United Nations to take up its bid a second time. Last Monday, as the war entered its seventh month, the Security Council agreed to reopen the application. The Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, called it “a historic moment again” and said that it was high time for the world body to recognize Palestinian statehood. That, he said, would “open the door slightly in the direction of peace.”

About 140 countries have gone on record in support of the Palestinian bid that reached the Security Council on Thursday.

To succeed, the application needed the votes of at least nine of the 15 member countries, and no veto by any of its five permanent members. It received 12 votes, but the United States — which has a longstanding policy that Palestinian statehood must come as part of a negotiated agreement with Israel — used its veto power as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

What countries individually recognize Palestine as a state?

Already, 138 of the 193 sovereign states that belong to the United Nations recognize Palestinian statehood, according to the World Population Review, including Russia and China — both permanent members of the Security Council.

While the European Union itself does not recognize the state of Palestine, nearly a third of the bloc’s 28 members do.

The Vatican has also recognized Palestinian statehood.

A giant chair symbolizing the statehood of Palestine in Ramallah, in the West Bank, in 2011.Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Which countries have moved closer to recognizing a Palestinian state?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has doubled down on his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state, rebuffing pressure from President Biden to agree to that path after the war in Gaza ends. But as the death toll has climbed in Gaza, the push for Palestinian statehood has intensified.

Allies like Canada, France and Britain have long shared the Biden administration’s stance about the need for a two-state solution negotiated with Israel. But some have in recent months suggested that they might recognize a Palestinian state sooner.

David Cameron, Britain’s foreign secretary, signaled in January that Britain was willing to move up conversations about formally recognizing a Palestinian state, saying that his country and other allies should show Palestinians “irreversible progress” toward that long-sought goal.

In February, President Emmanuel Macron of France said, “Recognition of a Palestinian state is not a taboo for France.” It was unclear whether Mr. Macron was referring to France’s longstanding support for a two-state solution in general or to the idea of giving recognition before any negotiated agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.

And last month, the leaders of Spain, Ireland, Malta and Slovenia issued a joint statement saying that they had “discussed together our readiness to recognize Palestine and said that we would do so when it can make a positive contribution and the circumstances are right.”

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