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US vetoes Palestine’s request for full UN membership

US vetoes Palestine’s request for full UN membership

18 April 2024 in 2024
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Security Council Fails to Recommend Full United Nations Membership for State of Palestine, Owing to Veto Cast by United States

180424 UN News

Ambassador Robert A. Wood of the United States votes against the draft resolution on Palestine in the Security Council.

(United Nations Press) – The Security Council today blocked Palestine’s bid to become a full member of the United Nations due to a United States veto on a draft resolution that would have recommended the granting of such status.

The proposal, submitted by Algeria, received 12 votes in favour, with the United States casting a negative vote and Switzerland and the United Kingdom abstaining.  A Council resolution requires at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes from its five permanent members — China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States — to pass.  The Algerian draft failed, owing to a negative vote cast by a permanent member (the United States).

If adopted, the draft would have had the 15-member Council recommend to the 193-member General Assembly that “the State of Palestine be admitted to membership in the United Nations”. 

In 2011, Palestine submitted an application to become a full UN Member State.  Although that aspiration did not materialize, Palestine obtained the status of a non-member observer State in November 2012 through an Assembly vote of 138 in favour to nine against (Canada, Czech Republic, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Panama, Palau, United States), with 41 abstentions (including Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu).

An application for admission to UN membership must be approved by the Council before being forwarded to the Assembly, where the matter requires at least two-thirds support to pass.

[Note: To find out more about Palestine’s status at the UN, read the UN News' explainer here.]

Introduction of Draft Resolution

Introducing the draft resolution, the representative of Algeria said that he is doing so on behalf of his Government, the Arab Group, the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement, and countless peace-loving countries, urging Council members to vote for the text and the sake of Palestinians.  “It is the least we could do to honour the debts we owe to its people,” he said. Palestine fulfils membership criteria as defined in the UN Charter.  “It is time for Palestine to take its rightful place among the community of nations,” he declared, adding:  “Peace will come from Palestine’s inclusion, not from its exclusion.”  Failing to do so is a denial of the Council’s responsibilities, an unforgivable mistake, and a license to continue injustice and impunity. 

Palestine's Response to Vote

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine underscored:  “Our right to self-determination has never once been subject to bargaining or negotiation.”  It is inalienable and eternal, and not subject to manipulation, domination or conditions.  “Especially not by Israel — the occupying Power, the ethnic-cleansing Power, the colonial Power,” he stressed, despite its determination to evict Palestinians from their homeland, eliminate their identity, uproot their civilization and besiege their future.  

Underscoring that “we will not disappear”, he said that Palestinians remain on their land out of patience, steadfastness, hope and sacrifice despite oppression, exile, enslavement, persecution, displacement and eviction.  

Stating that his delegation came to the Council today to “salvage what can be saved”, he noted that most Council members stood on the side of justice, freedom and hope “in line with the legal and ethical principles that must govern our world”.  

He also thanked all those who supported Palestine’s request for UN membership for understanding Palestinians’ pain at this moment. 

Emphasizing that Palestine accepted the two-State solution as an international vision of peace and engaged in the peace process, he said that Palestinian leadership continues to be committed to this peaceful track.  He questioned, however, if Israel is a true partner for peace, stressing that it insists on occupation, murder and siege “to snuff out any hope of a sovereign Palestinian State”.  Asking those present if they will give Israel the time it needs to annex Palestinian land, the immunity it needs to evict and kill and the right to veto Palestine’s full UN membership, he underscored that such inclusion is not “symbolic”.  Rather, it is a manifestation of Palestinians’ right to self-determination and “an investment in peace”, he urged, adding:  “We don’t want to replace anyone, we want to enter your club as an equal.”  Also stating that Palestinians know best what a just solution is — a free Palestine — he reiterated:  “We will not disappear.” 

Explanation of Votes

Speaking after the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation, spotlighted the simple question before the Council today: “Are the Palestinians worth being part of the global family?”  While most of the international community has consistently answered in the affirmative, the United States believes differently, he noted — namely, that the Palestinians “do not deserve to have their own State”.  For that reason, Washington, D.C., is ready to turn a blind eye to Israel’s crimes against civilians in Gaza, force them to submit to the occupying Power, transform them into servants and second-class persons and, perhaps, oust them from their territory once and for all.  The United States’ veto today “is a hopeless attempt to stop the inevitable course of history”, he stressed, adding that the results of the vote “speak for themselves”.  He therefore called on the United States to “listen to the voice of reason”, consider the consequences of its decision and join other Council members’ efforts to establish an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The representative of France said the time has come to achieve a comprehensive political settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-State solution.  France supported the draft as Palestine’s admission as a full UN member could facilitate the implementation of such as solution and strengthen the Palestinian Authority.

The representative of Guyana said that 13 years after the last request, another call for justice by the Palestinian people was made today.  However, “the Council’s response was not enough to deliver that justice”, she said, noting that, since 1947, there have been at least 792 formal Council meetings on the Palestinian question.  While the Council has largely been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, this sympathy has not generated enough political will to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting solution.  “If the occupying Power were held to account for its continued violation of international law, the path to a free and independent Palestine would have been cleared a long time ago”, she said.  

The representative of Slovenia said that his delegation supported the draft and Palestine’s membership in the United Nations.  The two-State solution, under which two democratic States — Israel and Palestine — live side by side in peace is the only long-term sustainable option.  Membership in the UN is not an alternative to negotiations, but complementary to them. The UN should play a crucial role in the peace process, and therefore both States should have an equal status at the UN, he said.

The representative of the Republic of Korea recalled that, although his country first applied for UN membership in 1949, it was not granted that status until 1991.  As such, he emphasized that his country “can clearly attest to the meaning of aspirations to be admitted to this paramount international organization”. His delegation voted in favour of the draft resolution because renewed efforts are needed to revitalize a path to the two-State solution, he said, adding that its vote today “does not constitute bilateral recognition of Palestine as a State”.  This matter will be considered in the future at a time conducive to the resolution of the conflict. 

The representative of Japan expressed regret that, despite the adoption of a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, this objective has not been attained, and the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.  “Japan has strongly upheld the Palestinian right to self-determination, and consistently supported a two-State solution,” he said, recalling that his country voted in favor of the 2012 General Assembly resolution granting Palestine observer State status at the United Nations.  Similarly, Japan voted in favor of today’s draft resolution as “a comprehensive decision, recognizing that Palestine meets the criteria for admission to the UN membership”. 

The representative of China said that today is a sad day. Because of the veto by the United States, the application of Palestine for its full membership at the UN has been rejected.  It is unacceptable that some countries are challenging Palestine’s eligibility for membership.  Some countries make direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel “a prerequisite”, claiming that Palestine’s membership in the UN can only be the result of negotiations.  “This is putting the cart before the horse,” he asserted.

The representative of Ecuador recalled that his country recognized Palestine as a free, independent State on 24 December 2010.  In 2012, it co-sponsored the General Assembly resolution considering observer status for the State of Palestine and, since 2014, it has maintained an embassy in Ramallah while Palestine has one in Quito.  “Today, once again, Ecuador’s vote has shown our commitment to the Palestinian people, reaffirming our recognition that we made 14 years ago,” he emphasized.  He also expressed hope that, in the “very near” future, conditions will exist such that the Council will unanimously allow Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations.

The representative of Mozambique underscored that people are born with the inherent right to self-determination, independence and sovereignty, as anchored in the Charter.  He reminded the Council that, as of today, 140 UN Member States have recognized Palestine.  “This quasi-universal recognition is a testament that Palestine fulfils the requirement of Statehood”, including population, territory, government and the capacity to engage in relations with other States, he said.  Conditions are ripe for Palestine to be a full member of the UN.  Palestine is clearly a peace-loving nation and has shown the willingness to carry out the obligations of the Charter, he added.

The representative of Sierra Leone noted that 13 years after Palestine’s application was first considered by the Security Council Admissions Committee, there is a recognition of the basis for such a request.  Highlighting General Assembly resolution 181 (1947), which recommends the establishment of an independent Arab and an independent Jewish State, he said his country voted in favour of the draft resolution that would have strengthened the two-State solution.  While the membership of the State of Palestine may have been delayed, “it cannot be denied”, he concluded.

The representative of Algeria expressed gratitude to all those who voted in favour.  “The overwhelming support sends a crystal clear message — the State of Palestine deserves its rightful place among the UN Members,” he said, adding:  “We will return stronger and more vocal and backed by the overwhelming majority of the General Assembly”.  He pledged that Algeria’s effort will not cease until the State of Palestine becomes a full member of the UN.

The representative of Malta, Council President for April, said that her country made a clear choice by supporting a two-State solution and in favour of an idea that has enjoyed the support of the vast majority of the international community for decades.  “UN membership is a necessary step for the Palestinians to achieve equal footing with the rest of the international community,” she asserted.

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