WASHINGTON – The United Nations General Assembly is underway, and its centerpiece this year is the Palestinian drive for recognition. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that he will address the international body next week to relay Israel's stance on the move, while Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki announced that the PA plans request the Security Council for full UN membership.
What alternatives does the PA have, and how can it achieve statehood? All that and more in the handy guide to UN membership.
What are the criteria for the recognition of a state?
According to the Montevideo Convention of 1933, Art.1. " The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a ) a permanent population; b ) a defined territory; c ) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states."
More on the PA's UN campaign:
- Netanyahu to address General Assembly ahead of PA bid
- PA to file UN membership bid with Security Council
- Abbas: No going back on decision to seek UN recognition
Despite the dispute over the future borders of the Palestinian state, the Palestinians seem to fulfill the other criteria defined by the convention, especially after the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, which has reinforced the criterion of governance.
UN Security Council
What is the procedure to be accepted as a member of the UN?
In the first stage, the Security Council must issue a recommendation, which requires a majority of 9 out of the 15 Council members. In addition, every one of the permanent member of the Security Council – United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – can veto the vote. If the required majority is achieved and no veto has been issued, the vote is then moved to the General Assembly, where it needs 2/3 majority in order to approve the accession of the new member.
Which countries have not been accepted due to a veto at the Security Council?
Kosovo, which declared its independence in 2008, has not applied for UN membership because Russia had already declared that it would veto the move, despite the support of the United States and the European Union, as well as some 75 states that recognize Kosovo's independence.
US to veto PA bid? Obama at UN
What is the Palestinians' current status at the UN?
The body representing the Palestinians at the United Nations is the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), not the Palestinian Authority. The permanent observer of Palestine to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, has wide competences, but cannot take part in votes, initiate resolutions or be elected to one of the UN's bodies.
Despite these restrictions, the Palestinians have managed to promote different resolution through various Arab states, which serve as rotating members of the Security Council.
Can Palestine be accepted as a full member of the United Nations?
In order for Palestine to receive full membership at the United Nations, which includes voting rights, it must first go to a vote at the Security Council. The Palestinians can opt for a vote at the General Assembly, where they will most likely win a large majority, but such a step will only carry symbolic significance, and is not binding in any way.
Palestinian flag to join soon?
Why isn’t a majority at the UN General Assembly enough?
The accepted legal interpretation in international law determines that resolutions issued by the General Assembly are only recommendations, and do not have binding authority. The UN Charter states that only Security Council resolutions issued under Chapter VII are binding. Therefore, any resolution adopted by the General Assembly without the backing of the Security Council, will not change the de-facto status of the Palestinians.
Do the Palestinians have options other than full UN membership?
The Palestinian can propose a vote of support for a Palestinian state at the Security Council, which will not serve as an official recognition of a state, but will determine that the conditions are ripe for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on '67 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital.
This "softened" declaration may prevent the US from issuing a veto at the Security Council and will mostly likely win a larger majority at the General Assembly. Though it will not give the Palestinians a permanent seat at the UN, it will reinforce their status in the international arena.
The Palestinians also have the option of upgrading their status from observer to a non-member observer state. This new status is granted by a General Assembly resolution, and does not require the prior consent of the Security Council. While the upgraded status does not affect the rights of observer parties, non-member observers can join international organizations such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the UN Human Rights Council and more.
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