Palestinians push for elevated UN status: Did Gaza conflict help?
Some nations are warming to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's bid for enhanced UN status. After the Gaza conflict, they see the moderate Abbas as a counterweight to Hamas.
The United Nations is poised to give Palestinians enhanced status in its General Assembly Thursday – despite intense opposition from the United States and Israel – partly in an attempt to head off the rise of Hamas after the recent Gaza missile conflict.Skip to next paragraph
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The Palestinian bid for nonmember observer status has long been expected to succeed, because a majority of the General Assembly’s 193 voting members support Palestinian statehood. But a number of countries are warming to the UN bid following the fighting between Israel and Hamas, the militant Islamist organization that governs Gaza. They see the vote as a way to bolster Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is behind the UN effort and who is seen as a moderate counterweight to Hamas.
France, Portugal, Denmark, Switzerland, and other Western European nations have announced in recent days they will vote in favor. Even Britain, which once opposed the move, now says it will abstain in the vote – even as it leaves the door open to voting in favor if the Palestinians make last-minute concessions that the government of Prime Minister David Cameron seeks.
As a nonmember observer state – akin to the UN status the Vatican holds – Palestine would not be a voting member of the General Assembly, but would have the right to apply for membership in UN legal institutions, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.
It’s that eventuality – and the prospect of Palestine seeking to sue Israel over settlement construction or other issues it sees as violations of international law – that prompted Israeli and American opposition. Indeed, Prime Minister Cameron's condition for a "yes" vote is a commitment from the Palestinians not to seek membership in judicial institutions.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated US opposition to the Palestinian UN bid last week, insisting that negotiations with Israel are the only means of achieving meaningful statehood. This week the US publicly called the UN move a “mistake.”