Palestinians want April vote on UN membership despite US saying peace with Israel must come first

The Palestinians want the Security Council to vote later this month on their revived request for full membership in the United Nations, despite the United States reiterating that Israel and the Palestinians must first negotiate a peace agreement
A general view shows a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Friday, March. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

A general view shows a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Friday, March. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinians want the Security Council to vote later this month on their revived request for full membership in the United Nations, despite the United States reiterating Wednesday that Israel and the Palestinians must first negotiate a peace agreement.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, said 140 countries recognize the state of Palestine, and "we believe it is high time now for our state to become a full member at the United Nations."

The Palestinians are making a fresh bid for U.N. membership as the war between Israel and Hamas that began Oct. 7 nears its sixth month, putting the unresolved decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the spotlight after years on the back burner.

During the Cold War between the former Soviet Union and the United States, Mansour said, countries were blocked from joining the U.N., but they all eventually became members, including North Korea. The U.S. doesn't recognize North Korea but didn’t block its admission, he said, and asked why conditions should be placed on Palestinian membership.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered the Palestinian Authority's application to become the 194th member of the United Nations to then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sept. 23, 2011, before addressing world leaders at the General Assembly.

That bid failed because the Palestinians failed to get the required support of nine of the Security Council’s 15 members. Even if they did, the United States, Israel’s closest ally, had promised at that time to veto any council resolution endorsing Palestinian membership, saying this should follow a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians then went to the 193-member General Assembly, where there are no vetoes, and by more than a two-thirds majority succeeded in having their status raised from a U.N. observer to a non-member observer state in November 2012.

Mansour asked the Security Council on Tuesday to consider during April the Palestinians’ renewed application for membership, which was supported by the 22-nation Arab Group at the United Nations, the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the 120-member Nonaligned Movement.

He told several journalists Wednesday that he expects the council’s Standing Committee on New Members, which includes all 15 council nations, to meet behind closed doors to consider the application before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on April 9.

Mansour said he then expects the Security Council to vote on the Palestinian request for full U.N. membership at its monthly meeting on the Middle East, being held at ministerial level April 18.

Seven of the council's 15 members recognize the state of Palestine — China, Russia, Ecuador, Mozambique, Algeria, Guyana and Sierra Leone.

U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller was asked Wednesday whether the United States would veto full membership for Palestinians. “I am not going to speculate about what may happen down the road,” he replied.

He said intensive diplomacy has taken place over the past few months to establish a Palestinian state with security guarantees for Israel, which the United States supports. But Miller said that should be done through direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, “something we are pursuing at this time, and not at the United Nations.”

U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood pointed to another obstacle: The U.S. Congress has adopted legislation “that in essence says that if the Security Council approves full membership for the Palestinians outside of a bilateral agreement between Israel and the Palestinians … (U.S.) funding would be cut off to the U.N. system.”

“We’re bound by U.S. laws,” he told several reporters Wednesday. “So our hope is that they don’t pursue that, but that’s up to them.”

Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador, said it is the Palestinians' “natural and legal right” to seek full U.N. membership and declared, “Let the process unfold.”