Palestine granted observer status at UN
Palestine has been awarded the status of a non-member observer state in the United Nations, by an overwhelming majority of 138 Yes votes to nine No votes and 41 abstentions late yesterday.
The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, exchanged accusations and recriminations in speeches preceding the vote. The resolution passed despite stiff opposition from the US and Israel.
“Palestine comes today to the UN General Assembly at a time when it is still tending to its wounds and still burying its beloved martyrs . . . who have fallen victims to the latest Israeli aggression,” Mr Abbas began.
He called the resolution “the last chance to save the two-state solution” and “a final attempt to achieve peace”.
The recent eight-day war between Hamas and Israel “confirmed once again the urgent, pressing need to end the Israeli occupation,” Mr Abbas said, repeatedly referring to “this racist, colonial occupation”.
Mr Prosor noted that this week marked the 35th anniversary of the visit to Jerusalem by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s. Then Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, who received Sadat, “said that for peace to endure, Israel’s security must be protected. The Palestinians must be prepared to recognise the Jewish state and they must be prepared to end hostilities once and for all.
“The people of Israel wait for a leader that is willing to follow the path of President Sadat,” Mr Prosor continued. “For as long as President Abbas prefers symbolism over reality, as long as he prefers to travel to New York for UN resolutions rather than to Jerusalem for dialogue,” peace could not be achieved.
Ireland voted for the resolution. Tánaiste and foreign minister Eamon Gilmore said: “Ireland has long championed the cause of Palestinian statehood, as well as the vital importance for the entire Middle East region of a comprehensive peace settlement based on two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.”
Mr Gilmore said the vote “represents an important step for the Palestinian people on their path towards full statehood, as well as for all those who look forward to the day when Palestine can rightfully take its place as a full member of the United Nations.”
The Palestinian Authority’s 2011 bid for full UN membership was thwarted by the threat of a US veto in the security council.
Yesterday’s vote strengthened the trend of increasing support for Palestinian statehood among EU countries. About a dozen EU countries indicated they would vote for the resolution, including France, Spain, Norway and Denmark. The majority were to abstain.
Germany says No
Germany was the only EU member which said it would vote against the resolution.
Britain considered voting Yes on condition the Palestinian Authority promise not to use its observer status to gain membership in the International Criminal Court at the Hague, where it might attempt to pursue Israel for war crimes.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinians’ UN representative, said his people had no immediate plan to do so, but wanted to keep that option open.
Mr Abbas and Mr Prosor both noted that the vote was held on the 65th anniversary of General Assembly resolution 181, which divided the British mandate for Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. Israel accepted it at the time. Under Yasser Arafat’s leadership, the Palestine National Council accepted resolution 181 in 1988.