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How US could avoid vetoing Palestinian statehood

Even though nine Security Council members have recognized Palestinian sovereignty, it appears increasingly unlikely that all of those would vote for the formal request.

By / September 26, 2011

Palestinians watch their President Mahmoud Abbas on TV as he addresses the General Assembly of the UN, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, last week.

Majdi Mohammed/AP

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WASHINGTON

The United Nations Security Council formally took up the Palestinian bid for statehood Monday, but signs appear to be growing that the US could avoid using its veto to stop the measure.

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A petition for full UN membership requires a favorable vote from nine of the Council’s 15 members, but a number of members appear to be wavering in their support – raising prospects that the Palestinian bid could fail to reach the required majority.

Several UN diplomats said that, even though nine of the Security Council members have recognized Palestinian sovereignty, it appears increasingly unlikely that all of those would vote for the formal request. The Security Council took up the matter for 40 minutes Monday afternoon, long enough to send the petition to a membership committee that will include representatives of all 15 Council members.

The Security Council is expected to take up the issue again Wednesday and Friday, UN sources said, but a formal vote is not expected for several weeks. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas submitted his statehood bid to the Council Friday, defying US demands that he instead return to talks with Israel.

The Obama administration has vowed to veto the Palestinian request, but a failure to reach a nine-vote majority would allow President Obama to avoid standing out as the world leader who squelched Palestinian statehood – something he says he supports, but only through negotiations with Israel.

The US and the four other permanent members of the council – Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom – all wield veto power, but only the US has said it would use its veto to stop creation of an independent Palestine.

China on Monday announced that it supports the petition – but in his speech Monday to the UN General Assembly, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi also underscored China’s support for a return to direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Last week at the UN, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a speech that he supports non-voting “observer” status for Palestine that could be approved through the 194-member General Assembly – suggesting France would vote “no” on full statehood through the Security Council.

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