Palestinians officially relaunch bid to become United Nations member state

Palestine Liberation Organization seeks recognition as state from world body, which granted it observer status in 2012, but vote on application can be vetoed by US

Seen through a Palestinian flag, people rally in support of the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West Bank city of Nablus, November 29, 2012. (AP/Nasser Ishtayeh)
File: Seen through a Palestinian flag, people rally in support of the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West Bank city of Nablus, November 29, 2012. (AP/Nasser Ishtayeh)

The Palestine Liberation Organization has officially revived its application to become a full member state in the United Nations, according to a letter from its UN envoy dated Tuesday.

The PLO, which has had observer status at the world body since 2012, has lobbied for years to gain full membership, which would amount to recognition of Palestinian statehood.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the Palestinian UN envoy, Riyad Mansour, requested “upon instructions of the Palestinian leadership” that an application dating back to 2011 be reconsidered this month by the Security Council.

The letter has been transmitted to the council, according to the documents seen by the AFP news agency.

Mansour has repeatedly said in recent months that in the face of Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip in response to the devastating October 7 onslaught by Hamas, UN membership was a priority for the PA.

A council committee of 15 members first assesses an application to see if it satisfies the requirements for UN membership. The application can then either be shelved or put forward for a formal vote in the Security Council. Approval requires at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the US, Russia, China, France, or Britain.

If the council approves the membership request, it then moves to the General Assembly for approval. A membership request needs a two-thirds majority to be approved by the assembly. A country cannot join the United Nations unless both the Security Council and General Assembly approve.

The 2011 application, launched by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, never came before the Security Council for a vote, and the General Assembly voted to grant the PA observer status in November 2012.

The UN Security Council committee assessed the application for several weeks to see if it satisfied the requirements for UN membership. However, the committee was unable to reach a unanimous position and the Security Council never formally voted on a resolution on Palestinian membership.

Diplomats said the Palestinians lacked the minimum nine votes needed to adopt a resolution. Even if they had won enough support, the United States had said it would veto the move.

Observers believe the current Palestinian push for membership is unlikely to reach the assembly as the United States, Israel’s closest ally, could use its Security Council veto power to derail the recommendation.

The League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Non-Aligned Movement sent a letter to Guterres on Tuesday, also seen by AFP, supporting the bid by the PA.

File: Palestinian Authority United Nations envoy Riyad Mansour speaks during a UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, at the UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

“We wish to bring to your attention that, as of this date, 140 Member States have recognized the state of Palestine,” said the joint letter, which included a list of those countries.

Little progress has been made in achieving Palestinian statehood since the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PA in the early 1990s. Among the obstacles are persistent Palestinian terrorism and incitement against the Jewish state, along with expanding Israeli settlements.

The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank and is Israel’s partner in the Oslo Accords. Hamas in 2007 ousted the Palestinian Authority from power in the Gaza Strip.

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