UN Vote Was for Palestinian Membership, Not Statehood


Joe Lauria | Consortium News – TRANSCEND Media Service

10 May 2024 – In a blow to the U.S., the U.N. General Assembly voted today to give Palestine, whose statehood it has already acknowledged, full U.N. membership, forcing the U.S. into another embarrassing veto at the Security Council.

The United States will be forced into another embarrassing veto at the U.N. Security Council after the General Assembly on Friday voted overwhelmingly to ask the Council to reverse its rejection of full U.N. membership for Palestine.

The Assembly voted 143 nations in favor, to just nine against, with 25 abstentions to recommend that the Security Council reconsider its decision last month not to approve full membership. It was a message in reality only to the United States, since it was the U.S. veto in the Council on April 18 that denied Palestine full membership.

Joining the U.S. in the Assembly in voting against on Friday were Israel, Argentina, Czechia, Hungary, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Papua New Guinea. Most U.S. allies abstained but several voted in favor of membership, including Australia, Estonia, France, Japan, Norway, Spain and South Korea.

Israel’s furious ambassador, Gilad Erdan, said the U.N. was founded to prevent the kind of tyranny of the Nazis who sought to annihilate the Jewish people.

“Today, you are doing the opposite … welcoming a terror State into its ranks,” he said. “You have opened up the United Nations to modern-day Naziism. It makes me sick.”

Erdan hysterically added that the vote had “opened up the United Nations to modern-day Nazis, to genocidal jihadists committed to establishing an Islamic state across Israel and the region, murdering every Jewish man, woman and child.”

He then held up a battery-operated, mini paper shredder and inserted the cover of the U.N. charter.

Israel’s U.N ambassador shredding the cover of the U.N. charter. (U.N. Photo/Manuel Elías)


In 2012, the Assembly voted overwhelmingly to make Palestine an observer state, giving it only the right to speak in the Assembly.  The resolution passed on Friday expands Palestinian rights to include being seated alphabetically in the Assembly, having the right to submit amendments and agenda items and to be elected as officers to U.N. committees.

Full U.N. membership with voting rights can only be granted by the General Assembly after a recommendation from the Security Council. The General Assembly took action on Friday after the United States cast the lone veto against Palestinian membership at the Security Council, when ally France voted in favor and Britain abstained.

The matter now goes back to the Security Council, where the U.S. said on Friday that it will veto it again on the basis of an erroneous argument that the issue before the U.N. is statehood rather than membership.

“It remains the U.S. view that the most expeditious path toward statehood for the Palestinian people is through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with the support of the United States and other partners,” said Robert Wood, the U.S. deputy ambassador, after the U.S. cast its veto last month.  “We also have long been clear that premature actions here in New York, even with the best intentions, will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people.”

The New York Times and other Western media also incorrectly reported that the General Assembly voted for Palestinian statehood.  The Times headline read: “The U.N. General Assembly adopts a resolution in support of Palestinian statehood.” The Sydney Morning Herald‘s headline was: “Australia joins 142 nations in backing Palestinian statehood in UN vote.”

In fact, the resolution was only to grant full U.N. membership to Palestine. Only states can bilaterally recognize other states and 139 countries have already done so for Palestine.  The U.S. government and Western media ignoring the legality of these 139 countries recognizing Palestine is an inheritance of colonial arrogance.

In reporting for The Wall Street Journal on the 2012 General Assembly vote to make Palestine an observer state I referred to the country as “Palestine.” A WSJ editor angrily rebuked me. “We don’t call it Palestine,” he said.  So the call of Wall Street Journal editors overrides 139 nations.

The General Assembly has considered Palestine to be a state since that 2012 vote as seen in the nameplate before Palestine’s U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour, seen here speaking at the Security Council last month:

Ambassador Riyad Mansour of the State of Palestine addressing the U.N. Security Council on Thursday. (U.N. Photo from U.N. TV)

Definition of a State

The U.N. can only confer membership to already existing states, and not grant statehood. Only states can recognize other states bilaterally. The U.N. General Assembly gave observer state status to the State of Palestine in 2012.

The U.N. Charter is clear. Article 4 says that only existing states may apply for U.N. membership. It says:

“Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.” [Emphasis added.]

Friday’s General Assembly resolutionDetermines that the State of Palestine is qualified for membership in the United Nations in accordance with Article 4 of the Charter of the United Nations and should therefore be admitted to membership in the United Nations.” ”

The resolution doesn’t say the General Assembly determines that Palestine qualifies as a state, but as a member of the U.N. because it already says it’s a state, in a resolution that 143 countries voted for and only nine against. But those nine countries rule the world, according to the U.S.

On the basis of the language of Article 4, the 143 countries that voted in favor on Friday consider Palestine to be a state, even if they have not formally recognized it bilaterally.

France, for instance voted for full membership, although it has not yet formally recognized Palestine. However. French President Emmanuel Macron said in February it was no longer a “taboo” for France to recognize Palestinian statehood.  The French Assembly voted in 2014 to urge the government to do so.

The original text of Friday’s resolution says “membership in the United Nations is open to all peace-loving States which accept the obligations contained in the Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.”  The Associated Press reported that the words “peace-loving” were dropped from the resolution.

The very act of the U.N. secretary general in 2011 accepting a Palestinian membership application was an acknowledgement from the U.N. that Palestine is already a state, as only states can apply.

The definition of a state is contained in Article 1 of the 1933 Montevideo Convention, according to which Palestine is indeed a state: The Convention’s requirements for statehood are:

  • “a) a permanent population,
  • (b) a defined territory,
  • (c) government and
  • (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.”

Palestine has all four. Since 1967 its defined territory has been Gaza and the West Bank after Security Council resolutions demanding Israel stop occupying Palestinian territory. Francis Boyle, a professor of international law at the University of Illinois, told Consortium News that the Montevideo Convention “still has standing under customary international law.”

The General Assembly also pointed out that Palestine is a member of the Arab League and several U.N. agencies and affiliated bodies, such as the International Criminal Court.

[See: Why Palestine Is Already a State (CN, 2012)]

Palestinian U.N. ambassador Riyad Mansour speaking at the U.N. General Assembly on Friday. (U.N. TV Screenshot)

China: Palestine Should Have Same Status as Israel

During the Assembly debate Friday, Ambassador Fu Cong of China said Palestine should have the same U.N. status as Israel and Palestinians the same rights as Israelis.

“It is the common responsibility of the international community to support and advance the process of Palestinian independent Statehood, and provide strong support for the implementation of the two-State solution and a lasting peace in the Middle East,” he said.

Fu said the U.S. repeatedly used its veto “in an unjustified attempt” to block the world’s efforts to correct the “historical injustice long visited on Palestine.”

“It is not commensurate with the role of a responsible major country,” he said.

“China welcomes this historic resolution, which reflects the will of the international community,” Fu said. “We believe that the special modalities adopted within the limits permitted by the U.N. Charter will enable the international community to listen more adequately to the voice of Palestine and help it to talk and negotiate with Israel on a more equal footing.”

Russia’s ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told the Assembly: “Only full-fledged membership will allow Palestine to stand alongside other members of the Organization and enjoy the rights that this status implies. It is the moral duty of everyone.”

“A ‘yes’ vote is a vote for Palestinian existence; it is not against any State, but it is against attempts to deprive us of our State,” said Mansour, the Palestinian representative. “It is true that we will not disappear, but the lives lost cannot be restored.”

“No words can capture what such loss and trauma signify for Palestinians, their families, their communities and for our nation as whole,” Mansour told the Assembly. Despite that, the Palestinian flag “flies high and proud” in Palestine and around the world as a “symbol raised by all those who believe in freedom and its just rule. ”

Watch the debate on Palestinian membership at the General Assembly:


Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. Email: joelauria@consortiumnews.com

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