U.N. Upgrades Palestinians Status to Nonmember State
The United Nations General Assembly approved the upgrade of Palestine to a nonmember observer state at the United Nations on Thursday, with 138 votes in favor, nine opposed, and 41 abstentions. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the resolution “unfortunate and counterproductive,” while Israeli spokesman Mark Regev said the vote was nothing but “negative political theatre” that is “going to hurt peace.” The status of nonmember observer state provides Palestine with additional tools to challenge Israel in international legal forums.
Meanwhile, ahead of the U.N. vote, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation SA 3023 as an amendment to S. 3245, the National Defense Authorization Act currently under consideration in the Senate, that would cut assistance to the Palestinian Authority if they file charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court. Additionally, amendments SA 3139 and SA 3171 were introduced to the same bill. SA 3171 bars the U.S. from funding the United Nations if the General Assembly votes to upgrade Palestine’s status in any manner, while SA 3139 cuts funding for any country that votes to upgrade Palestinian status. “We are committed, Democrats and Republicans, to using every means at our disposal to ensure that this U.N. General Assembly vote does not serve as a precedent for elevating the status of the PLO,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
“Thursday’s overwhelming U.N. vote to elevate the status of Palestine at the world body inflicts yet another fracture in the facade of Western solidarity, exposing a divide among European Union and NATO member states over U.S. policy in the Middle East,” warned Carol J. Williams, in The L.A. Times. “Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister (of Israel), has argued that the Palestinians’ new status is compatible with a two-station solution – and therefore not necessarily bad news,” reminded Gideon Rachman in The Financial Times. “As Palestinian celebrations die out, focus shifts once again to Washington, where Abbas and his prime minister Salam Fayyad now have to deal not only with an administration reluctant to dive into any new peace initiative but also with Congress,” cautioned Nathan Guttman in The Jewish Daily Forward.