U.N. to Vote on Status of Palestinian State

On Thursday, November 28th, the U.N. General Assembly will vote on a resolution aiming to raise the status of Palestine from an observer to a non-member observer state. The proposal is being advanced by Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, who hopes to use the elevated status to renew talks of a two-state solution.

Not to be confused with last year’s bid for Palestinian statehood, which failed to gain approval by the U.N. Security Council, this year’s bid does not mandate review from the Security Council. With no possibility of a U.S. veto, as exercised in 2011, it is widely expected that the General Assembly will approve the upgraded status of Palestine.

With the international community focused on Hamas in the aftermath of the most recent Gaza conflict, Abbas’ diplomatic approach has the potential to not only shift attention to his Fatah party, but also to do more to advance the Palestinian campaign for statehood than Hamas’ rocket-fire. In a surprising move, Hamas, which had previously opposed a strategy involving an appeal to the U.N., voiced its support for the resolution. This support signals a rare moment of agreement between oft-feuding Palestinian leadership in the West bank and Gaza Strip.

The United States and Israel spearheaded an attempt to prevent the U.N. Bid, and were joined by Canadian Prime Minister Harper. Each county argued that the bid would create instability and derail the peace process. Despite such pleas and monetary threats, Abbas vowed to continue with the bid. In an apparent change of heart, the United Kingdom appears ready to back the resolution, under the condition that a newly upgraded Palestine would resume peace-talks and promise to not use its status to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel in the International Court. Yet, the final draft submitted to the U.N. does not include a proposition barring such criminal charges.  Other nations likely to support the bid include France, Spain, Russia, and China, while the U.S., Canada, Germany and Israel are among those likely to oppose. Nearly all of South America, with the exception of Columbia, and the Middle East and Northern Africa blocks are also likely to vote in favor of bid.

There is little doubt that, come Thursday, Palestine will be granted new status as a non-member observer state. However, how the U.S. and Israel will respond, and what an “observer-status” Palestine means for the peace-process remain unknown. Some Israeli leaders are urging swift action against Abbas should the vote take place, while others are calling for a more calm approach, relying on limited political capital due to Operation Pillar of Defense. As the resolution advances, we hope that leaders in Israel, Palestine and the international community will work to ensure that the U.N. bid does not undermine Israel’s security or sovereignty, or the prospects of a peace process.

Image courtesy of United Nations via Business Insider