Permanent status: on Palestine and the UN  

Palestine should be granted full-member status of the UN for a start 

April 20, 2024 12:10 am | Updated 09:50 am IST

As concerns about a conflict, by design or miscalculation, between Israel and Iran grow stronger, news of the United Nations Security Council resolution on granting Palestine full-member status at the UN, that was vetoed by the United States, has not received the attention it should have. The resolution, proposed by Algeria, was one more step at the world body to attempt to make good on the promise made in 1947, when the UN General Assembly originally adopted its resolution partitioning the then-mandated Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Only Israel became a full member of the UN in 1949. The “Question of Palestine” has been tossed around for decades, and even though the state of Palestine received permanent observer status in 2012, and temporary powers of a full member during its tenure as Chair of the G-77 and China grouping, in 2019, it has not been recognised as a full member so far. In vetoing Thursday’s UNSC resolution, that was supported by 12 of 15 UNSC members, the U.S. said that it believed Palestine should not be granted the membership through the UN process, but through “direct negotiations between the parties”. The Israeli Ambassador added that to give Palestine full member status at this time, six months after the October 7 terror attacks by Hamas, would be “the vilest reward for the vilest crimes”. It could also be argued that this is precisely the time to recognise Palestine’s long-denied right — in the aftermath of October 7, Israel has bombed Palestinians both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank indiscriminately. That it has continued its operations despite a UNSC ceasefire resolution that even the U.S. signed on, and now threatens yet another offensive on Rafah, shows the dire need for the Palestinian state to have a much stronger voice on the multilateral stage.

The U.S. must seriously reconsider such blanket protection for the Israeli position on all issues. The contention that Palestine could only be a state through “dialogue between the parties” has a flaw: it is Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who declared in January that he would never accept a Palestinian state, and intended to retain “full Israeli security control over all the territory west of Jordan”. A Palestine in the UN fold would also ensure that the new state would be bound by the obligations of all UN members. It is a gross injustice to all Palestinians to conflate them with terrorist acts perpetrated by Hamas — refusing to make a distinction between combatants and non-combatants only further marginalises the pain of all victims of violence. At a time when the international order is fracturing, the U.S., as a global leader, must endeavour to build, not break consensus in order to favour one country. To do so is to run counter to the UN’s basic principle: sovereign equality of all, following instead the more primitive dictum that “might is right”.

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