Palestinians Plan to Go to UN Security Council Despite US Veto

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced in a speech on Friday that they will be going to the United Nations Security Council for full membership in the world body—perhaps the most extensive of the available options for the Palestinians at the UN. According to a report by Al Jazeera, Abbas said in the speech, “We are going to the Security Council. We need to have full membership in the United Nations.”

To achieve full UN membership, the Palestinians must get the approval of the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. However, the United States has publicly said they will veto such a membership request at the Security Council. The US is one of five nations with veto power on the Council. According to Al Jazeera, Abbas did not address the American veto plans in his speech.

Despite the push for UN membership and recognition of Palestinian statehood, Abbas acknowledged that even a full vote by the Security Council won’t grant them actual independence. Negotiations with Israel will still be necessary.

“Let’s be practical here. We’re not going there [the UN] to become independent,” Abbas was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying. “We will come back to negotiate the other issues.”

Full UN membership would nonetheless grant extensive rights and privileges to the Palestinians.

The US has been part of efforts to try and convince the Palestinians not to go to the UN. News reports in Israeli and Arab media have also mentioned the possibility of a toned-down approach to the UN, but Al Jazeera noted the political damage Abbas would take for backing down after Friday’s speech.

The Israeli news website Ynet, however, said in their coverage of the speech that Abbas clarified that a final decision has not been made and that “all options are open.”

In addition to the US opposition to the Palestinians going to the UN due to its impact on the peace process, the Israelis have been firm in their opposition to the move as well. In comments to The Mideast Update by phone on Thursday, one day prior to Abbas’ speech, Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Mark Regev noted Israel’s repeated efforts to get back to negotiations.

“We have been calling for negotiations… unfortunately up until now the Palestinians have stubbornly refused to engage with Israel,” said Regev. “And I would ask them: If they boycott Israel, if they refuse to talk with Israel, how do they expect to make peace with Israel?”

Despite Abbas’ mention of the need to return to negotiations after the UN move, Israel has expressed concern before that a UN approval of an extremist Palestinian resolution would actually make Palestinian compromise both now and in the future even more difficult.

On Thursday, Regev noted that a resolution could harm negotiations, which are the only path to Palestinian statehood. He said Israel’s message to the world is “not to agree to a one-sided, maximalist Palestinian resolution at the United Nations, that can only harm the peace process, and in so doing will not bring actually a Palestinian state into fruition any time soon. On the contrary, an extremist resolution can set back the possibility of a negotiated solution which will lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, September 16, 2011)