News / Middle East

Palestinians Seek to Upgrade UN Status

Palestinians hold placards depicting President Mahmoud Abbas during a rally in support of his efforts to secure a diplomatic upgrade at the United Nations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 25, 2012.
Palestinians hold placards depicting President Mahmoud Abbas during a rally in support of his efforts to secure a diplomatic upgrade at the United Nations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 25, 2012.
Margaret Besheer
The Palestinian Authority is seeking an upgrade in status at the U.N. General Assembly to that of a non-member state. The move follows a bid late last year to obtain full U.N. membership that stalled in the Security Council.

Last November, frustrated by a dormant peace process with Israel, the Palestinian Authority asked a U.N. Security Council committee to consider its membership application. The committee failed to agree to recommend full membership and the bid ended without further action.

This week, the Palestinian Authority is taking a different route, seeking enhanced observer status as a non-member state.

Abbas to speak

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will address the General Assembly on Thursday, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. A vote is expected to follow.  

Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour said the resolution has nearly 60 co-sponsors, and he expects the simple majority required for the upgrade.

But there are expected to be several European abstentions, and some "no" votes, including from the United States and Israel, which oppose unilateral Palestinian action toward statehood.

Membership privileges

George Washington University Political Science Professor Edmund Ghareeb explained what benefits that enhanced international status could bring the Palestinians.

"So this would, to a certain extent, refocus world attention on this issue and also it is going to legitimize the Palestinian position. It is going to strengthen further the Palestinian Authority's position as well," said Ghareeb. "It may make it much easier for the Palestinians to negotiate with the Israelis without pre-conditions or ending or freezing the settlements."

The status upgrade also opens the door for the Palestinians to join international treaties registered with the United Nations, as well as organizations, such as the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, and significantly, the International Criminal Court.

If accepted by the International Criminal Court, the Palestinian Authority could request the prosecutor investigate Israeli actions in Palestinian territories.

Related video report by Meredith Buel:

Downside of upgrade

The Palestinian move for non-member state status also could have some negative consequences.

The United States has been opposed to the status, saying negotiations are the only road to Palestinian statehood. U.S. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Monday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Abbas last week that Washington's position has not changed.

"We do not think that this step is going to bring the Palestinian people any closer to a state. That we think it is a mistake. That we oppose it. That we will oppose it," said Nuland.

The Congressional Research Service says the United States allocated about $500 million for the Palestinians in 2010. Some of that aid could be threatened, as well as funds from other sources, said New York University' Center for Global Affairs Dean Vera Jelinek.

"There is a risk of penalties. There is a risk of penalties from the United States, and those penalties have been levied against UNESCO, for example," said Jelinek. "So if UNESCO is a yardstick of what might happen, then obviously aid could be withdrawn; Israel could withhold some of the funding that it gives, some of the taxation."

Financial impact

That would complicate a bleak fiscal picture for the Palestinians, who the World Bank says are facing a $1.5-billion budget deficit in 2012.

Political scientist Ghareeb said short term, it may hurt the Palestinians economically and put them on a confrontation course with Israel and the United States, but he said there is no other option.

"In the long term there is no alternative for the Palestinians but to make their case, to bring it up before international public opinion, because their case has been ignored, marginalized, not taken seriously and it has weakened the position of the Palestinians," said Ghareeb.

Analysts say they do not think enhanced status for the Palestinians will undermine the Middle East peace process, which has been stalled for more than a year.

Ghareeb said it could put pressure on the United States, Israel and others to properly revive the peace process as a real alternative to confrontation. Analyst Jelinek said Abbas likely has calculated that strong support for enhanced status will improve his negotiating position with Israel.

"I think he feels he will have a stronger position if this resolution is passed. He will have a stronger position internationally, and therefore, vis-à-vis Israel. That Israel will feel the pressure - the international pressure - of coming to the table," said Jelinek.

What may not be known for months is the impact an upgrade in U.N. status could have for the Palestinians.

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Comment Sorting
by: NVO from: USA
November 29, 2012 12:38 PM
The Muslims pray with thier back to the Dome of the Rock, and they face EAST towards Mecca, YET they want Jerusalem???

by: JohnWV from: USA
November 28, 2012 10:14 AM
Besieged Palestinian Gaza is an experiment in provocation. Stuff one and a half million people into a tiny space, stifle their access to water, electricity, food and medical treatment, destroy their livelihoods, and humiliate them regularly...and, surprise, surprise - they turn hostile. Now why would you want to make that experiment? Because the hostility you provoke is the whole point. Now under attack you can cast yourself as the victim, and call out the helicopter gunships and the F16 attack fighters and the heavy tanks and the guided missiles, and destroy yet more of the pathetic remains of infrastructure that the Palestinian state still has left. And then you can point to it as a hopeless case, unfit to govern itself, a terrorist state, a state with which you couldn't possibly reach an accommodation. And then you can carry on with business as usual, quietly stealing their homeland.

by: JohnWV from: USA
November 28, 2012 10:12 AM
The Jewish state has replicated the Warsaw Ghetto in besieged Palestine and wreaked horrors upon its inmates for generations in gross violation International Law. Upgrade to UN “observer state” will recognize statehood and allow Palestine to petition the Hague International Criminal Court. Hopefully, it will convict the Israeli criminals, impose punitive reparations, and somehow force an end to the Jewish state's paranoid pursuit of invulnerability, territorial conquest and supremacist empire.

by: lee sherman from: Austin, TX
November 28, 2012 9:25 AM
Unilateral for the United Nations to recognize Palestine as a state is multilateral. This is a better solution than the half-century status quo of a stalemate.

The general assembly resolution 181 that declared Israel a state calls for a palestinian one too. It's the basis for Israel to exist and to deny the PLO this is just to slowly encroach on lands and commit apartheid.

VOICE OF AMERICA shame on you for publishing such biased propaganda with the money stolen from my paycheck in the name of sovereignty over my decision. We should support this and quit bowing to Israel so that region will quit having excuses to kill Americans..
In Response

by: Ben from: Houston
November 28, 2012 1:00 PM
You're joking right? Israel is the only nation in that area that actually LIKES us. Every other jawa state is out to kill us and the jews. It is pathetic that after all this time people still think Israel is the bad guy.

by: hane from: dakar
November 28, 2012 3:43 AM
I think palestine must have his statehood.

by: Bevmar from: D/FW Texas
November 27, 2012 11:23 PM
This is one of the most ridiculous "reports" I have read in awhile. The Palestinians were offered their own state WAY back in 1947. Rather than accept a state that would have a Jewish state in its immediate area, they decided to become a nation of "refugees."

How many times has Israel attempted to work with the Arabs? How many times have the Arabs tossed the equivalent of "the finger?"

The incredible lies that have been told about Israel should amaze the entire world. More Jews were deported from Arab countries than deliberately left Israel when their Grand Mufti told them to leave so that the Arabs could kill all the Jews.

Every single Jew who had been thrown out of Arab countries were welcomed into Israel and were made citizens. The Arab countries simply isolated their own people refusing to permit them to become citizens. They have deliberately prevented them from becoming citizens in order to keep them as pawns so that the world would still think of them as "refugees."

Israel wants peace and have wanted peace for decades, it is the Arabs who call themselves Palestinians who refuse to go to the table. Look at what Arafat did when he was offered almost 100% of what he supposedly wanted only to turn it down and start yet another massacre against innocent Israelis.

Speaking of massacres, who was it that lobbed countless rockets into Israel to kill CIVILIANS? THINK! Israel forced their own citizens to leave the Gaza only to have the Arabs deliberately target civilians in Israel. Keep in mind that Israel is the ONLY DEMOCRACY in the Middle East. It is also the only country in that part of the world that permits people from all over the world to become citizens, not only Jews. All religions are permitted.

EVERY SINGLE ARAB STATE IS APARTHEID. Only ONE religion is permitted: Islam...but which Islam is the real Islam? They kill each other over differences in each other's views.

The so-called Palestinians are demanding that the Capitol of Judaism, Jerusalem, be their Capitol. Why? The Jewish scriptures mention Jerusalem hundreds of times. The Koran NEVER mentions Jerusalem. For three thousand years Jerusalem has been the heart beat of Judaism; it has never been an Arab city.

The "West Bank" is, in reality, Judea and Samara. The Jordanians, when they unlawfully occupied Judea and Samara during their attempt to destroy Israel renamed it the "West Bank."

The number of lies that are told about that area and Israel are too numerous to mention here, they should NEVER have anything close to statehood until they sit down with Israel and work things out. Until then, NO.

by: Opus Dei from: Above
November 27, 2012 9:59 PM
look and you will see... all across the Islamic nations... evil is exalted... and as predicted, France is the first to cower... and the UK is the last to resist... but the nation of Israel, will have to fight, and the "West" will read her sermons on how to live... may God bless you noble nation, you are alone facing the tide of Islamic depravity
In Response

by: angelina from: las vegas
December 01, 2012 3:06 AM
World best assassins are found in israel and for sure Arafat was poisoned by mossad.

by: Poster Atat
November 27, 2012 8:40 PM
I think one of the minimal requirements of being a 'state' is that you control yourself and your people do not attack civilians as a non-stop 'right', never-ending.

I would like to see the Kurds be included in any such talks, they are not at perpetual war, attacking innocent civilians whenever possible, as an absolute right. They're pretty much peaceful, they should be considered FIRST. All they want to do is live in peace, and even will do so even if they don't have a country of their own. That's WHY they should be considered FIRST, they are civilized.

by: angelina from: las vegas
November 27, 2012 6:22 PM
There are no words. Why do we go to war for oil,land grabbing to capture the resources of other countries waste huge money on jet fighters bombs yet allow children to be brutalized, tortured and murdered. In the name of what? Freedom - such an entitled and neglected gift by those who have it, such a precious and costly need for those who don't.

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