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The U.S. Vetoes Resolution to Upgrade Palestine’s U.N. Membership

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The U.S. blocked on Thursday a draft resolution that would have allowed the United Nations General Assembly to vote on allowing a Palestinian state to become a full member state of the U.N. The move has triggered backlash from other states and pro-Palestinian groups, as global divisions continue to sharpen over Israel’s war on Gaza.

The U.S. was the only nation in the 15-member U.N. Security Council to vote against the resolution. Twelve—including Russia, China, France, and Japan—voted in favor, while two—the U.K. and Switzerland—abstained. 

While not a full member, Palestine has been a Permanent Observer at the U.N. since 2012, a status that allows it to participate in U.N. proceedings but not to vote on draft resolutions and decisions.

In 2011, the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abba initiated a bid to consider Palestine as a full U.N. member. However, it was eventually dropped amid pressure from the U.S. (When the Palestinian Authority was accepted as a full member of UNESCO in 2011, the U.S. cut funding to the cultural agency.)

On April 2, the Palestinian Authority again submitted a request to reconsider its 2011 request for full U.N. membership. The U.S. has been urging the Palestinian Authority not to press ahead for a U.N. vote—pressure that was ignored by Abbas.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement that “the Biden administration should be ashamed and embarrassed” of its “unjust veto.” The Muslim advocacy group also criticized what it says are limits of the U.N. Security Council in addressing coNFLict.

“For decades, the UN Security Council has failed to prevent unjust wars and genocide around the world,” the statement said. “The world should no longer accept a flawed system in which five nations can exercise veto power over the affairs of more than eight billion people, including nearly two billion Muslims who are not represented among the five permanent members.”

The U.N. Security Council was established in 1945 to maintain international peace and security, as well as to recommend new U.N. members to the General Assembly. It consists of 10 rotating members elected on two-year terms and five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.). A typical resolution in the Security Council requires affirmative votes from nine members to pass, though any of the five permanent members reserve veto power.

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan expressed disappointment at the number of countries that have supported the Palestinian request. “Regardless of the Palestinians’ failure to meet the necessary criteria for UN membership, most of you sadly decided to reward Palestinian terror with a Palestinian State,” he said. “It’s very sad because your vote will only embolden Palestinian rejectionism even more and make peace almost impossible.”

Riyad Mansour, a Palestinian-American diplomat and the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., thanked those who voted in favor of the request and reiterated his people’s resolve. “The fact that this resolution did not pass will not break our will, and it will not defeat our determination,” he said. “We will not stop in our effort. The State of Palestine is inevitable. It is real. Perhaps they see it as far away, but we see it as near, and we are the faithful.”

The U.S. has found itself increasingly isolated by the international community because of its support of Israel. But as the human costs of the coNFLict in Gaza mount, President Joe Biden has also gradually shifted his tone towards his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, calling Netanyahu’s approach to the war a “mistake.” The U.S. vetoed calls at the U.N. for a humanitarian ceasefire for months, but one was eventually passed in March, after the U.S. abstained from voting. Still, the U.S. has maintained its support for Israel, helping it recently shoot down missiles from Iran and vowing “ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”

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