Palestinians win approval to fly flag at UN
Ireland votes in favour of resolution granting observer states the right to fly their flags
The change was made by the UN General Assembly, when a vast majority of member countries voted in favour of a resolution granting what are known as non-member observer states the right to fly their flags alongside member states.
Palestine became an observer state in 2012. The Vatican, the only other observer state, has held that status since 1964.
Palestinian diplomats secured the support of a majority of the assembly, as was expected, with 119 countries voting in favour of the resolution, eight voting against it and 45 abstaining.
The flag is expected to be hoisted for the first time when the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, delivers his remarks to the annual meeting of heads of state and government at the General Assembly on Sept 30th.
The resolution is part of the effort by Mr Abbas and his associates to gain international recognition for a Palestinian state on lands seized or controlled by Israel since the 1967 war. Israel and the United States have argued that such measures are meaningless without a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Today’s vote is a reaffirmation of the legitimacy of the national aspirations of the Palestinian people, of their existence among the nations of the world and their right to self-determination,” the Palestinian ambassador, Riyad H Mansour, said in thanking his General Assembly supporters.
Voting in favour of the resolution were the countries of the Arab world, Iran and nearly every African and Asian country. It was co-sponsored by more than 50 countries. Israel, the United States, Canada and Australia were among those that voted against it.
The 28-member countries of the European Union did not manage to take a united position as they had hoped.
The US ambassador, Samantha Power, in explaining her no vote, said that raising the flag “is not an alternative to negotiations and will not bring the parties closer to peace.”
The Israeli ambassador, Ron Prosor, described the resolution as a cynical action. “Make no mistake, the goal of this resolution is a photo op,” Mr Prosor said.
“The Palestinians want to bring together world dignitaries and the media to gather around and watch as Mahmoud Abbas raises a flag. They plan to use the prestige of the UN as a backdrop for this charade.”
How much the resolution buoys Mr Abbas’ standing among his domestic constituency remains to be seen. On Thursday, Ghassan Khatib, vice-president of the Palestinian Birzeit University, called it “a good symbolic move” that he hoped would bring more tangible benefits.
“People need to see real achievements that have a practical impact on people’s lives,” he said.
In another international challenge to Israel, the European Parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a resolution that supports labeling of products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and for “differentiation” between Israel and the settlements in European relations.
The resolution does not mean settlement products will immediately be labeled, but increases the pressure on European leaders to move the initiative forward.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel denounced it as “unjust” and said, “It also hurts peace.”
“The root of the conflict is not the settlements,”Mr Netanyahu said in a statement, adding, “We have historical memory of what happened when Europe labeled Jewish products.”