Palestine admitted to the United Nations as an observer state

Yesterday saw a significant step forward for the Palestinians. The United Nations General Assembly voted to admit Palestine to ‘non-member observer State’ status, a step up from its previous status as an observer ‘entity’. The vote breakdown was overwhelmingly in favor with 138 voting yes, just 9 against, 41 abstentions and 5 countries not taking part in the voting. The text of the resolution can be seen here and how each country voted can be seen here.

The countries voting no were the US, Israel, Canada, Panama, the Czech Republic, and the Pacific Island states of Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands and Micronesia.

The Australian Prime minister initially wanted to vote no but faced with a revolt within her own cabinet and party, she compromised and voted to abstain, as did the UK and Germany. But 17 European nations voted ‘yes’ including France, Italy, Austria, Spain, and Norway, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, and Denmark. Other countries voting yes included Turkey, China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa, and Nigeria

[Update: Here is a nice graphic showing the lopsided nature of the vote.]

This vote does not give Palestine full statehood with voting rights in the UN but puts it on the same status as the Vatican. Most importantly, it now becomes eligible for membership in the various UN bodies.

It should be noted that 132 countries have already recognized the State of Palestine so the outcome was not a surprise. What is significant is that the US and Israel exerted a lot of pressure on the Palestinians and its allies not to bring this to a vote at the UN. This was presumably to prevent them from gaining membership to the various UN bodies as a full member. They failed in the effort.

In fact, in return for a yes vote, the UK wanted the Palestinians to promise not to apply for membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC) or the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which was essentially a demand for immunity for Israel from possible war crimes charges, an extraordinary request. It looks like they did not get it. Like the Australians, the UK government too faced enormous public pressure to vote ‘yes’.


  1. left0ver1under says

    Israel has committed war crimes against the Palestinians. Why would anyone expect them to give up the right to legal recourse? Having the ability to go to the ICC will weaken Hamas’s position and support within the Palestinians, not strengthen it.

    The lack of legal recourse is why the PLO gained so much support in the first place. The world ignored the theft of Palestinian land in the 1960s and 1970s until the PLO acted. They resorted to violence because it was the only thing that people paid attention to. That’s not to justify or condone the PLO’s terrorism, but when legal means available to everyone else were denied to one particular group, they weren’t just going to give up and die.

  2. AsqJames says


    The Daily Show did a piece earlier this week comparing the concessions Hamas has won by repeatedly resorting to violence, with the complete lack of any progress Mahmood Abbas and the PA have won through renouncing violence and recognising the state of Israel.

  3. says

    How is this a “significant step forward?” It won’t make the PA “government” any more workable or viable than it is now, it won’t make their tactics any more successful than they already are, and it probably won’t even stop Israel from building more settlements on PA turf. Yes, the PA has more room to accuse Israel of war cirmes, but Israel can do the same to the PA (which side launched the first rockets in this last dustup again?).

    This is just another empty gesture by countries that want to pretend to support Palestine, but don’t want to actually get enough of their own skin in the game to do anything that will actually help. Seriously, if all 138 of those countries committed to military action to support Palestinian independence, they could have done the job with probably very little per-nation contribution. Hell, France and Russia alone could have done it.

  4. nrdo says

    On the contrary, I think this is a very significant step forward because it symbolically undermines the positions of the extremists on both sides; the settlers will never dominate the West Bank and likewise, the Islamic militants will never dominate or replace the state of Israel. The ideal and inevitable future is two free states, roughly along 1967 borders.

  5. left0ver1under says

    “Islamic militants”? Way to go, characterizing all people with a false label. Most of them just want to live safely in a free country.

    The UN charter on human rights includes things like the right to a homeland, a right to citizenship, a right to return to one’s home, a right for children to live free of violence. Israel is deliberately violating those and other rights with the explicit intent of forcing every single Palestinian off their land.

    Some might call it ethnic cleansing, but I call it petty revenge. The jews are trying to do to the Palestinians what was done to them: leave them without a homeland for 2000 years. Israel’s policies are those of a vindictive child.

  6. nrdo says

    I didn’t characterize anyone with a false label. Among the Palestinian population, you’ll find the majority are decent and ethical human beings. Unfortunately, you can also find a minority who believe that the entire land belongs to them and are happy to murder Jewish [and Arab] innocents to get it. The “Militant” is actually too polite for them. I’d call them criminals.

    Also, you’re clearly misinformed in your description of “ethnic cleansing”. There are some settlers [IMO also criminals] who advocate it, but Israel has not attempted to relocate Palestinians since 1948, and even then it was haphazard and a result of strategic considerations. Today there are actually many instances of cooperation and integration between Israelis and Palestinians in areas like public health and infrastructure and the Palestinian population has only grown since 1967. The real enemies are the extremists who think they can have one state for themselves if they just fight long enough, and I support the Palestinian statehood bid because it sends the message that they won’t.

  7. Jeremy44 says

    As a Canadian, I am surprised that my country joined the US in its initiative to prevent Palestine from obtaining the non-member observer state status. It’s evident that we appreciate Jewish culture, the Jewish Film Festival was one of the most advertised events in Vancouver last month and there are many other opportunities to celebrate the Jewish traditions but it doesn’t mean we always have to take Israel’s side and the future of the Palestinian people should also be our preoccupation.

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