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Israel-Gaza war: UN General Assembly backs Palestinian bid for membership

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The resolution “determines that the State of Palestine … should therefore be admitted to membership” and it “recommends that the Security Council reconsider the matter favourably”.

Tents housing internally displaced Palestinians crowd the shoreline in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on Friday. Photo: AFP

The Palestinian push for full UN membership comes seven months into a war between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and as Israel is expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank, which the UN considers to be illegal.

“We want peace, we want freedom,” Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour told the assembly before the vote. “A yes vote is a vote for Palestinian existence, it is not against any state … It is an investment in peace.”

“Voting yes is the right thing to do,” he said in remarks that drew applause.

Under the founding UN Charter, membership is open to “peace-loving states” that accept the obligations in that document and are able and willing to carry them out.

“As long as so many of you are ‘Jew-hating’, you don’t really care that the Palestinians are not ‘peace-loving’,” Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan, who spoke after Mansour, told his fellow diplomats.

He accused the assembly of shredding the UN Charter – as he used a small shredder to destroy a copy of the Charter while at the lectern.

“Shame on you,” Erdan said.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan destroys a copy of the UN Charter as he addresses delegates during the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday. Photo: Reuters

An application to become a full UN member first needs to be approved by the 15-member Security Council and then the General Assembly. If the measure is again voted on by the council it is likely to face the same fate: a US veto.

Deputy US Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood told the General Assembly after the vote that unilateral measures at the UN and on the ground will not advance a two-state solution.

“Our vote does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood; we have been very clear that we support it and seek to advance it meaningfully. Instead, it is an acknowledgement that statehood will only come from a process that involves direct negotiations between the parties,” he said.

The United Nations has long endorsed a vision of two states living side by side within secure and recognised borders. Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, all territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war with neighbouring Arab states.

The General Assembly resolution adopted on Friday does give the Palestinians some additional rights and privileges from September 2024 – like a seat among the UN members in the assembly hall – but they will not be granted a vote in the body.

Delegates react to the results of the United Nations General Assembly vote on a draft resolution that would recognise the Palestinians as qualified to become a full UN member in New York on Friday. Photo: Reuters

The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a de facto recognition of statehood that was granted by the UN General Assembly in 2012.

They are represented at the UN by the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank. Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority from power in Gaza in 2007. Hamas – which has a charter calling for Israel’s destruction – launched the October 7 attack on Israel that triggered Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Erdan said on Monday that, if the General Assembly adopted the resolution, he expected Washington to cut funding to the United Nations and its institutions.

Under US law, Washington cannot fund any UN organisation that grants full membership to any group that does not have the “internationally recognised attributes” of statehood.

The United States cut funding in 2011 for the UN cultural agency, Unesco, after the Palestinians joined as a full member.

On Thursday, 25 Republican US senators – more than half of the party’s members in the chamber – introduced a bill to tighten those restrictions and cut off funding to any entity giving rights and privileges to the Palestinians.

The bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, which is controlled by US President Joe Biden’s Democrats.

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