In a significant move the Palestinians asked the United Nations (on September 23, 2011) to accept them as a member state. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submitted the application to UN chief Ban Ki-moon as planned. In his letter to Ban accompanying the application, Abbas asked the UN chief to immediately forward the request for full UN membership to the Security Council and the General Assembly. This development comes even as the United States made an appeal to stop such a bid and instead restart direct negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians. We need to understand the fact that the establishment of the state of Palestine is not an option, to choose or not to choose. It should be seen as a valid expression of democratic and human right. Everyone in the world is born with a basic right to equal treatment regardless of ethnicity, religion, education, hobby and domicile. The Palestinian nation too deserves it all. In pursuance of the cherished dream of getting statehood the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally submitted a request to join the UN as a full member state at its annual session held in the month of September, 2011. The Palestinians want international recognition to 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as capital. But the idea is strongly opposed by Israel and its close ally, the United States. Let us now consider the questions that have been raised by this statehood bid by Palestine:
Reasons for statehood: The Palestinians are making the request for statehood now because of few pertinent reasons. Firstly, over the course of the past two years the Palestinian Authority has made great progress in building the infrastructure necessary for maintaining a sovereign state. They have made improvements in governance, security, and physical infrastructure as indicators of their readiness for getting the status of a full-fledged nation. Secondly, the main reason for their bid for statehood now is the impasse in peace talks. However, the Palestinians also argue that their UN plan fits with an agreed deadline. The Middle East Peace Quartet - the European Union, United States, Russia and UN - committed itself to the target of achieving a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict by September 2011. Thirdly, Palestinians firmly believe that full UN membership will put pressure on Israel to reopen the negotiations with them in creating two separate states. Fourthly, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, said the UNSC should approve the statehood request because much of the world already recognises Palestine as a country. Meanwhile, Palestinians have secured eight Security Council yes votes for their UN membership bid just one short of the nine they need the Palestinian foreign minister and also received assurances from two additional nations - Nigeria and Gabon - in their support. Finally, we can sense the impact of the recent Arab uprisings that has energized Palestinian public opinion to demand for their own statehood.
Understanding the demands of Palestinians: The Palestinians, as represented by the Palestinian Authority, have long sought to establish an independent, sovereign state in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza - occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six Day War. However, two decades of on-and-off peace talks have failed to produce a deal. Late last year, Palestinian officials began pursuing a new diplomatic strategy: asking individual countries to recognize an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. Now they want the UN to admit them as a full member state. Currently the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) only has observer entity status. This would have political implications and allow Palestinians to join UN agencies and become party to international treaties, such as the International Criminal Court, where they could take legal action to challenge the occupation of territory by Israel.
Process to grant statehood at the UN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas presented his views at United Nations General Assembly to have the status as 194th member of United Nations. In order for the Palestinians to be admitted as a member state, they would need the approval of the 15-member UN Security Council. Any Council recommendation for membership would then need a two-thirds majority vote in the 193-member General Assembly for final approval. The Council would need nine votes out of 15 and no veto from any of its permanent members to pass a decision. However, the US has made clear it will wield its veto power. US is of the opinion that “peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN and there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades”. the Israeli-Palestinian problem should be settled through negotiations ending up with two states living side- by-side in peace. The UK and France would almost certainly abstain because they cannot endorse UN membership of a state they have not recognized bilaterally.
Supporters of Palestinian demand and Indian stand: The Palestinians enjoy the majority support at the 15 member UN Security Council, the body that can confer full UN membership to Palestine. But the USA, which as one of the five permanent members holds veto power, has pledged it will vote down the statehood bid, which hold the key to failure or success of Palestinians chance to win full membership. In the General Assembly, where a vote would be non-binding, the Palestinians enjoy the support of more than 120 of the 193 members and passage of a statehood resolution would be all but assured.
India has welcomed Palestine as an equal member of the United Nations. Indian PM reiterated that India was “steadfast” in its support for the struggle of the Palestine people and added that the united State of Palestine should choose East Jerusalem as its capital and live “within secure and recognisable borders side by side and at peace with Israel”. India was the first non-Arab country to recognize the Palestinian aspiration for statehood
The reform and expansion of the Security Council are essential if it is to reflect contemporary reality. Such an outcome will enhance the Council’s credibility and effectiveness in dealing with global issues,” the Indian Prime Minister asserted. “Early reform of the Security Council must be pursued with renewed vigour and urgently enacted, the principal organs (of the United Nations) — the General Assembly and the Security Council — must be revitalised and reformed.”
U.S. and Israel oppose Palestinian statehood bid: Both the US and Israel oppose the Palestinian statehood demand because they believe that this will hinder the possibility of reaching a peaceful settlement to the Middle East Conflict. USA and Israel argue that the UN action does not take the place of direct negotiations. Netanyahu has said Palestinians are looking for a "state without peace," ignoring security concerns important to Israel. "Palestinians should first make peace with Israel and then get their state," he said, adding that peace must arrive through a two-state solution that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state. "Peace is not achieved through unilateral approaches to the U.N. or by joining forces with the Hamas terror organization," Netanyahu said in a statement, referring to a recent, unimplemented agreement between Abbas and the violently anti-Israel group that rules Gaza to unite their rival governments. "Peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations with Israel."
If a Palestinian state is recognized, what could that mean for its negotiations with Israel: It is believed that recognition of a Palestinian state may exacerbate already poor relations between the Palestinian Authority government and Israel. A minority section in the Israeli political group unilateral response to the Palestinian bid including the outright annexation of territory in the West Bank, the withholding of tax revenue collected on behalf of the Palestinians and the cancellation of various parts of the 1993 Oslo accords that created the Palestinian Authority. Potential moves like this could result in rising level of Palestinian frustration and could add a great deal of tension on the ground and contribute to the possibility of an outbreak of violence. On the other hand we can also accept that recognition of statehood of Palestine will help to put pressure on Israel to be more reasonable in future negotiations.
Israel and the Palestinians negotiations: Currently there are no talks going on between Israeli and Palestinians. Talks fell apart a year ago over disagreements on the issue of Israeli West Bank settlements. Coming off a self-imposed 10-month halt in settlement construction, Israel said it would not renew the freeze. This led the Palestinians to quit the negotiations. In an effort to head off the Palestinian’s statehood request at the UN the United States and various European countries have been engaged fast track diplomacy to get the talks restarted but any breakthrough in talks is far away from reality.
Will Statehood to Palestine change facts on the ground: Recognition by the United Nations could potentially give Palestinians greater access to international bodies like the International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Council. Venues like these could serve as a place for Palestinians to file legal challenges to Israeli practices and exert more international pressure on Israel. On the other side it can be argued that admission of Palestine as a full member state at the UN would strengthen their hands in peace talks with Israel especially on the final status issues that divide them.
U.N. Security Council Takes First Step in Palestinian Statehood Bid: In a bid to satisfy the Palestinian demand for achieving statehood the UN Security Council took its first step on the Palestinian application to join the United Nations by handling it to a committee that will review and assess the Palestinian demand and its implications. The standing committee on the admission of new members to the world body is comprised of all 15 council members. Normally, the review period for a membership application is a maximum of 35 days, but this limit can be waived and the process could theoretically drag on.
What might the UN resolution decide on Palestinian issue: While a U.S. veto would block the bid for full U.N. membership, the General Assembly could still vote to upgrade the status of Palestinians, who currently hold the status of non-voting observer "entity." The body could change that status to permanent observer "state". This status is held by the Vatican and has been held in the past by countries such as Switzerland. This would improve the Palestinians’ chances of joining UN agencies and the International Criminal Court.
Current scenario: Most of the countries of the world have vehemently criticized Israel's approval of the construction of 1,100 homes in a southern Jerusalem neighbourhood that was seized by Israel in 1967. The Palestinians claim the land Israel occupied in East Jerusalem and the West Bank after the 1967 war as part of a future Palestinian state.