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Path to Recognition: The Palestinian Quest at the United Nations

The U.N. General Assembly, with a significant majority, voted to extend new "rights and privileges" to Palestine and urged the Security Council to reconsider Palestine's bid to become the 194th member of the United Nations. The resolution, sponsored by Arab and Palestinian entities, passed with 143 votes in favor, 9 against, and 25 abstentions. Notably, the United States, Israel, Argentina, Czechia, Hungary, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Papua New Guinea opposed it.

The vote underscored global backing for Palestine's full U.N. membership, prompted by concerns over the escalating death toll in Gaza and fears of a major Israeli offensive in Rafah, a city where approximately 1.3 million Palestinians have sought shelter.

The resolution also signaled increasing support for the Palestinian cause. Just weeks earlier, a General Assembly resolution on October 27, advocating for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, was approved with 120 votes in favor, 14 against, and 45 abstentions. This followed Israel's military offensive in response to Hamas' attack in southern Israel on October 7, resulting in significant casualties.

Although the recent resolution grants Palestine some new rights and privileges, it reiterates Palestine's status as a non-member observer state without full U.N. membership, denying it voting rights in the General Assembly or its conferences. The United States reiterated its stance to oppose Palestinian membership and statehood until direct negotiations with Israel address key issues such as security, boundaries, the future of Jerusalem, and lead to a two-state solution.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood emphasized that any support for Palestinian statehood from the U.S. hinges on negotiations ensuring Israel's security and future as a democratic Jewish state, alongside Palestinians' peaceful coexistence in their own state.

Previously, the U.S. vetoed a widely supported council resolution on April 18 that would have facilitated Palestine's full U.N. membership. The U.N. Charter mandates prospective members to be "peace-loving," requiring the Security Council's recommendation for admission to the General Assembly. Palestine gained status as a U.N. non-member observer state in 2012.

Unlike the Security Council, where vetoes can be employed, the General Assembly, with 193 members, does not have this mechanism. The recent resolution required a two-thirds majority and garnered significantly more votes than the minimum threshold of 118.

Support for the resolution came from U.S. allies like France, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Australia, Estonia, and Norway. However, European countries showed significant division on the matter.

The resolution asserts that Palestine qualifies for membership, omitting the previous language about being a "peace-loving state," and advises the Security Council to reconsider its request "favorably." This renewed push for full Palestinian U.N. membership coincides with the spotlight on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to the Gaza war, which has reignited after more than 75 years. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the substantial loss of life, with over 34,000 reported deaths according to Gaza health officials, have evoked condemnation from numerous countries.

Prior to the vote, Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour delivered an impassioned speech, highlighting the profound loss and trauma experienced by Palestinians in Gaza. He accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of endangering thousands for political gain and seeking to annihilate the Palestinian people.

Mansour expressed gratitude for the resolution's robust support and noted that 144 countries, including four from the Caribbean since October 7, have now recognized the state of Palestine.

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