For first time since 2011, Palestine to apply for full UN membership

Though bid is doomed to fail due to expected US veto, Israeli envoy attacks Ramallah for ‘destructive policies that have encouraged recent terror ‎attacks’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Palestinians wave their national flag during a rally in Ramallah on November 29, 2012, to support Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's bid for UN recognition of statehood. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinians wave their national flag during a rally in Ramallah on November 29, 2012, to support Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's bid for UN recognition of statehood. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority plans to apply for full membership at the United Nations, a move that is highly unlikely to succeed due to the opposition of the United States and other countries.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki on Wednesday announced in an interview his intention to ask the UN Security Council to hold a vote on the matter next month.

At least nine countries would have to vote in favor of granting Palestine full membership, and even then one of the council’s five permanent members could veto the resolution.

The vote is expected to take place on January 15 in the framework of the Security ‎Council’s quarterly discussion on the Situation in the Middle East.

Even though the Palestinian bid has virtually no chance of succeeding, Israel vowed to fight it.

“We are preparing to stop the initiative,” Israel’s Ambassador to the ‎UN Danny Danon declared, saying that his delegation will work together with the US administration on the matter.

UN Ambassador Danny Danon during a brief press conference before a Security Council meeting, July 24, 2018 (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

“Even as it continues to pay salaries to terrorists every month, encourage ‎violence and lead an unrelenting campaign of incitement against Israel, ‎the Palestinian Authority has the audacity to ask the Security Council to ‎recognize it as a full member state of the United Nations,” Danon said in a statement.

“Instead of ‎focusing on building a better and more hopeful future for the Palestinians ‎and helping to ensure stability in the region, the Palestinian leadership is ‎continuing its destructive policies that have encouraged recent terror ‎attacks.”

It is currently unclear whether Danon, a former lawmaker and minister for Israel’s ruling Likud party, will still be the country’s envoy to the UN by the time of the expected vote. He is said to be considering quitting his post in order to run in the Likud primaries, which will be held in early February ahead of national elections on April 9.

Danon on Wednesday denied reports that he had already tendered his resignation.

“After a decision is reached in the Knesset, he will announce his intentions,” a spokesperson told The Times of Israel. The Knesset voted to disband late Wednesday, but Danon has still not formally declared if he will remain in New York until the end of his term in the summer of 2019 or return to Israel to reenter politics.

PA President Abbas in Ramallah, September 16, 2011. Abbas had just announced that he would ask the Security Council to accept the Palestinians as full members at the UN (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The last time the Palestinians applied for full UN membership was in 2011. Then, the Security Council’s Committee on the Admission of New Members discussed the matter, including whether “Palestine” fulfills the widely recognized criteria for statehood.

At the time, the committee, composed of delegates from all Security Council members, was unable to make a unanimous decision and recommended, as “an intermediate step,” to have the UN General Assembly confer the status of an observer state upon Palestine.

Since it emerged that the Palestinian bid would not get the required yes vote by at least nine members, the application was never brought to a vote. Rather, on November 29, 2012, the General Assembly, where there is no veto, voted with an overwhelming majority to confer non-member state status on Palestine.

The current planned application for full membership seems doomed to fail as the US is likely to cast a veto in the case it gains the required support — which is far from guaranteed — of nine Security Council nations. On January 1, the council changes its composition in Israel’s favor. Sweden and Bolivia, staunch supporters of the Palestinians, are being replaced by Germany and the Dominican Republic, two nations considered much friendlier to Israel in the international arena.

On January 1, the “State of Palestine” will officially take over the presidency of the Group of 77 and China, the biggest bloc of developing countries at the UN, which comes with additional rights and privileges.

In October, the General Assembly voted by an overwhelming majority to temporarily allow Palestine’s delegates to be able co-sponsor proposals and amendments, make statements, and raise procedural motions.

Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour addresses the UN General Assembly, October 16, 2018 (UN webtv)

They will have these extra rights for the duration of the State of Palestine’s chairmanship of the G-77, a consortium now consisting of 134 nations that often speaks in one voice at the General Assembly. A whopping 146 states voted in favor of Resolution A/73/L.5, while only three countries — the US, Israel and Australia — opposed it. Fifteen countries abstained.

After the vote, several European states said their “yes” votes should not be construed as a recognition of Palestinian statehood. Rather, it was intended to guarantee Palestine’s successful chairmanship of the G77, the envoys of Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom said in their respective remarks.

They also welcomed the fact that the extension of Palestine’s privileges was limited in time.

The G77 was originally founded in 1964 with 77 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Thailand, and India. Over the years it has grown to include countries such as South Africa, Qatar, Cuba, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Singapore, and Angola.

It comprises nearly three-quarters of UN member states, and about 80 percent of the world’s population.

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