US veto sinks Palestine UN membership bid in Security Council

AFP , AP , Friday 19 Apr 2024

The United States on Thursday spoiled a long-shot Palestinian bid for full United Nations membership, vetoing a Security Council measure despite growing international distress over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The United Nations Security Council meets on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, at UN headquarters in New York City on April 18, 2024. AFP


The move by Israel's key ally had been expected ahead of the vote, taking place more than six months into Israel's war on the besieged Palestinian territory.

Twelve countries voted in favor of the draft resolution recommending full Palestinian membership.

Britain and Switzerland abstained.

U.S. allies France, Japan and South Korea supported the resolution.

The strong support the Palestinians received reflects not only the growing number of countries recognizing their statehood but almost certainly the global support for Palestinians facing a humanitarian crisis caused by the Israeli war in Gaza, now in its seventh month.

Some 140 countries have already recognized Palestine, so its admission would have been approved, likely by a much higher number of countries.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas's office called the US veto "a blatant aggression" and "an encouragement to the pursuit of the genocidal war against our people... which pushes the region ever further to the edge of the abyss."

The draft resolution called for recommending to the General Assembly "that the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations" in place of its current "non-member observer state" status, which it has held since 2012.

Ahead of the vote, special Palestinian Authority envoy Ziad Abu Amr told the Council that "granting Palestine full membership at the United Nations will lift some of the historic injustice that succeeding Palestinian generations have been subjected to."

Ambassador Amar Bendjama from Algeria, which introduced the draft, said: "Failure to act is a serious unforgivable mistake. Failure to wake up today is a license for continuing injustice and impunity.

"Failure to do so is everlasting shame," he added.


Two-state solution

Any request to become a UN member state must first earn a recommendation from the Security Council -- meaning at least nine positive votes out of 15, and no vetoes -- followed by endorsement by two-thirds majority of the General Assembly.

​The last veto of a resolution for UN membership dates back to 1976, when the United States blocked Vietnam's entry.

The United States, Israel's main ally, has not hesitated in the past to use its veto to protect Israel, and did not hide its lack of enthusiasm for Palestinian UN membership in the weeks leading up to the vote, as the Palestinians and other Arab states implored the Council to recommend full membership.

Washington has said its position is unchanged: that the UN is not the venue for recognition of a Palestinian state, which must be the result of a peace deal with Israel.

"The United States continues to strongly support the two-state solution," US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said after the vote Thursday.

"This vote does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood, but instead is an acknowledgement that it will only come from direct negotiations between the parties," he claimed.

Israel's UN envoy Gilad Erdan slammed the fact that the Council was even reviewing the matter, calling it "immoral."

Israel's government opposes a two-state solution.


On a precipice

The measure's failure represented a "sad day," Chinese Ambassador Fu Cong said, calling the US veto "most disappointing."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres painted a dark picture of the situation in the Middle East, saying the region was "on a precipice."

"Recent days have seen a perilous escalation -- in words and deeds," Guterres told a high-level Security Council meeting, referencing Iran's weekend missile and drone attack, which came in the wake of a strike on its consulate in Damascus widely blamed on Israel.

"One miscalculation, one miscommunication, one mistake, could lead to the unthinkable -- a full-scale regional conflict that would be devastating for all involved," he said.

The UN chief also said Israel's war in Gaza had created a "humanitarian hellscape" for civilians trapped there, calling on Israel to allow more aid into the territory.

Israel has killed at least 33,970 people in the Gaza Strip, according to the health ministry in the territory. 

"It is high time to end the bloody cycle of retaliation," Guterres said.

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