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UN General Assembly Supports Palestinian Membership Bid

In a significant symbolic vote on Friday, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly backed a Palestinian bid to become a full UN member state, recognizing it as qualified to join and recommending that the Security Council “reconsider the matter favourably.”

The 193-member Assembly adopted the resolution with 143 votes in favour, nine against, including the United States and Israel, and 25 abstentions. While the resolution does not automatically confer full UN membership, it represents a powerful global endorsement of Palestinian statehood aspirations.

“We want peace, freedom,” said Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour ahead of the vote. “A yes vote is a vote for Palestinian existence; it is not against any state. It is an investment in peace.”

The resolution “determines that the State of Palestine…should therefore be admitted to membership” and recommends the Security Council, which must first approve any membership bid, revisit the matter positively. However, the US has vowed to veto any Palestinian membership application, in line with its position that the path to statehood must come through direct negotiations with Israel.

The Palestinian push for full UN membership comes amid heightened tensions with Israel. A months-long conflict raged between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza through October while Israel continued its expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank, which the UN deems illegal.

Israel fiercely opposed the resolution, with its UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan accusing the General Assembly of “shredding” the UN Charter by potentially admitting a non-peace-loving party. Erdan symbolically shredded a copy of the Charter at the podium, declaring, “Shame on you.”

The ambassador warned that if the measure is approved, the US is expected to cut funding to the UN and its bodies under American laws prohibiting funding entities that grant full membership to groups lacking “internationally recognized attributes” of statehood.

The Palestinian UN mission argued the resolution’s adoption would “constitute a clear reaffirmation of support…for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State.” Palestinians seek an independent state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 war.

While holding limited self-rule in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority was ousted from Gaza in 2007 by the militant group Hamas, which has a charter calling for Israel’s destruction. The UN has long endorsed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the 1967 lines.

Despite the symbolic victory, the path to full UN membership remains blocked without Security Council approval. But the lopsided General Assembly vote underscores the widespread global support for Palestinian ambitions and increasing impatience with the moribund peace process.

The resolution gives the Palestinians some additional prerogatives, like a designated seat at the UN from September 2024. However, the real prize – a UN member state – remains elusive without consensus among the Security Council’s permanent members.

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