The General Assembly on Tuesday voted by an overwhelming majority to temporarily grant the “State of Palestine” additional rights and privileges, allowing it to head the biggest bloc of developing countries at the United Nations.
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. US ambassador Nikki Haley branded the move “a mistake.”
Palestine’s delegates will be able co-sponsor proposals and amendments, make statements, and raise procedural motions. They will have these extra rights for the duration of its chairmanship of the Group of 77, the largest bloc of developing nations at the UN. The Palestinians will assume the bloc’s presidency on January 1, 2019, and hold it for one year.
Palestine — which is not a member state of the UN but has observer state status — was chosen in July to head the so-called G77 plus China, a consortium now consisting of 134 nations that often speaks in one voice at the General Assembly.
Haley said the UN should not have ben able to do so, recalling that the “Palestinians are not a UN member state or any state at all” and should not be granted privileges reserved for full-fledged members.
“Today’s UN mistake undermines the prospects for peace by encouraging the illusion held by some Palestinian leaders that they can advance their goals without direct peace negotiations,” said Haley in a statement.
Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Noa Furman said the resolution “clearly weakens and undermines the UN.” Despite the claim that it is technical in nature, the document gives the Palestinians rights beyond what is necessary to preside over the G77, she charged, accusing Ramallah of a “pattern of manipulative behavior.”
Only UN member-states with full recognition should be entitled to speak and act on behalf of groups of countries, US Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Cohen told the assembly ahead of the vote.
Calling the resolution “misguided,” Cohen warned that the United States will “leave no doubt about where we stand” and will not recognize the Palestinians in their new UN role.
“When the Palestinians speak as chair of the G77 in the General Assembly, we will remind our fellow member-states that the United States does not recognize that there is a Palestinian state and that no such state has been admitted as a UN member state,” he said.
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.
Australia said its “no” vote reflects Canberra’s longstanding position that unilateral moves by the Palestinians are “deeply unhelpful” to the efforts to reach a two-states solution.
Earlier this week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his foreign minister, Marise Payne, said in a joint statement that the resolution “seeks to confer an official status on the Palestinian Authority it does not have, and therefore has the potential to undermine efforts to bring parties together to work towards a peaceful settlement.”
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, thanked the many member states who voted for the resolution.
“The State of Palestine will spare no effort to prove worthy of this trust in its capacity to represent and defend the interests of the Group of 77 and China, while also engaging constructively, and in an inclusive and transparent manner, with all partners, in order to advance cooperation and mutually beneficial agreements, for the common good of all humanity,” he said.
Tuesday’s resolution, proposed by Egypt on behalf of the G77’s 134 members, noted that “State of Palestine is a party to many instruments concluded under the auspices of the United Nations and has joined several specialized agencies and bodies of the United Nations as a full member,” and acknowledged “that it is for each group to define the modalities of its representation and leadership.”
It also stipulates that Palestine be granted several additional rights and privileges “for the duration of the chairmanship by the State of Palestine of the Group of 77.”
They include: The right to make statements on behalf of the G77; the right to submit proposals and amendments and introduce them on behalf of the G77; the right to co-sponsor proposals and amendments; the right to make explanations of vote on behalf of the G77 member states; the right of reply regarding positions of the G77; the right to raise procedural motions, including points of order and requests to put proposals to the vote, on behalf of the G77.
Before the vote, Egypt introduced the resolution, saying it was necessary to enable Palestine’s “effective chairmanship” of the G77.
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 of nearly three-quarters of UN members states, and about 80 percent of the world’s population.
In July, when Palestine’s possible election was first reported, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon expressed misgivings about the move.
“The goal of the Group of 77 originally was to facilitate the economic advancement of underdeveloped nations,” he told The Times of Israel at the time.
“It is unfortunate that it will now become a platform for spreading lies and incitement. This will not promote the G77’s goals, and encourages the Palestinians to not engage in negotiations for peace.”
AFP contributed to this report