By Henry Greenfield
The United Nations’ Security Council is expected to decide whether or not to recognize
Palestine as an independent state on Friday, Sept. 23. Despite considerable support for Palestine in the General Assembly, the United States has publicly stated that it will veto the proposal.
If the U.S. or any of the Security Council’s four other permanent members do not veto, a nine to six majority is required to pass Palestine’s bid onto the General Assembly. If two out of the 35 General Assembly members vote in favor of Palestine, Palestine would receive full status as a member of the UN. About 120 of the 193 states represented in the General Assembly have already publicly recognized Palestine.
Because of support in the General Assembly, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian National Authority, stated that Palestine would pursue “observer status” as a non-member state if the U.S. vetoes. Observer status only requires a two out of 35 majority in the General Assembly, thereby forgoing the Security Council, but it does not entail the same privileges as a full member.
Abbas’ proposal returns Israel to its pre-1967 borders. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip would comprise an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Hamas, a rival of Abbas’ Fattah party and the current controlling party in the Gaza Strip, has dismissed Abbas’ appeal to the UN as futile.
With U.S. backing, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also criticized Abbas’ appeal to the UN, calling instead for direct negotiations between the Palestinian National Authority and Israel. The Palestinian National Authority, however, ended talks with Israel last year when Netanyahu refused to put a moratorium on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. If Palestine were recognized as a full member of the General Assembly, those settlements would breach Palestine’s national sovereignty, arguably a more serious
offense to international law than just violating the Geneva Convention, as Israeli settlements do now.
In the last couple of weeks the U.S. has emphasized that it will not allow Palestine’s bid to pass the Security Council, but earlier this year, along with Netanyahu, the U.S. hypothetically endorsed an independent Palestinian state as part of a two state solution. But, because of congressional pressure, it is unlikely that the U.S. will consent to an independent Palestinian state in the upcoming Security Council vote.