U.S. blocks resolution for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations

The United States was alone Thursday in voting against a United Nations Security Council resolution to admit the Palestinian territories as a full U.N. member state. Its veto killed the measure, proposed by Algeria on behalf of Arab nations. Twelve of the 15 council members voted in favor while two, Britain and Switzerland, abstained.

U.S. officials had said that voting for statehood now would undermine prospects for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which it said must be negotiated between the two parties.

“President Biden has been clear that a sustainable peace in the region can only be achieved through a two-state solution” with mutual agreement, U.S. representative Robert Wood told the council after the vote. “There is no other path that guarantees Israel’s security and future as a democratic Jewish state. There is no other path that guarantees Palestinians can live in peace and with dignity in a state of their own.”

“We also have long been clear that a premature action here in New York, even with the best intentions, will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people,” Wood said.

The vast majority of the council disagreed, with some saying the United States, and its unwavering support for Israel, bears responsibility for the ongoing agony of the Palestinian people. “Today’s use of the veto by the U.S. delegation is a hopeless attempt to stop the inevitable course of history,” Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said.

The result of the vote, with Washington “practically in complete isolation, speak for themselves,” he said. The United States “fully shared responsibility with its Israeli allies for the deaths of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians.”

Most others expressed disagreement with the U.S. analysis that Palestinian statehood would undermine, rather than promote, regional peace and stability, and argued that negotiations between two such unequal parties, with one occupying the territory of the other, could never achieve a fair solution.

Over decades of council meetings, the council “has been largely sympathetic to the Palestinian cause,” Guyana’s Ambassador, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, said. But “this sympathy has not generated enough political will to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Palestinian question.” Instead, she said, there have been “many Band-Aid measures to address the symptoms” without addressing “the root cause of the problem — the lengthy delay in the creation of an independent state of Palestine.”

The outcome of the vote was a foregone conclusion, since the Biden administration said in advance that it would veto the resolution. Passage required both nine votes out of 15, and no veto by a permanent member — including Britain, France, Russia and China as well as the United States. The administration had lobbied members to vote no or abstain, allowing it to avoid a veto.

Nonpermanent members of the council represent regional blocs of countries and rotate every two years. Those voting in favor of the resolution were: Slovenia, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Mozambique, Malta, Japan, Guyana, Ecuador and Algeria, in addition to Russia, China and France.

But even its closest council allies did not join the U.S. veto. Britain explained its abstention by saying that the route to a new future for the Palestinian territories “is not entirely our gift” to give, “but our recognition of a Palestinian state should be part of it.”

“We believe that such recognition of Palestinian statehood should not come at the start of a new process,” British Ambassador Barbara Woodward said. “But it doesn’t have to be at the very end of the process. … We must start with fixing the immediate crisis in Gaza” even as the international community works “together to support the new Palestinian government as it takes much-needed steps on reform and resumes governance in Gaza as well as the West Bank.”

Algeria, which sponsored the resolution, said, “We will not abandon this course, and we will not rest until the objective is achieved.”

The vote came after a passionate, day-long debate that included not only council members, but also nonvoting U.N. members who signed up to have a say. Several sent their foreign ministers.

Many argued that a yes vote would send a message, even if it didn’t immediately result in peace.

Ziad Abu Amr, special representative of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and others repeatedly noted that the same 1947 U.N. resolution that ultimately brought statehood for Israel also called for the creation of a Palestinian state. Adopting the resolution, he said, would grant Palestinians the hope for a decent life that “has dissipated over past years because of the intransigence of the Israeli government.”

“How could granting the state of Palestine full membership of the United Nations … damage the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis” or international peace? Abu Amr asked. “To those who say that recognizing a Palestinian state must happen through negotiations and not through a U.N. resolution, we wonder again, how was the state of Israel established.”

In an angry response, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan called the idea that “a Palestine Nazi state” met the criteria for membership “a joke.” If it passed the resolution, he said, the Security Council should be known as a “terror council.”

Recalling the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that sparked the current war in Gaza, Erdan said that “the child-murdering Hamas rapists are watching this meeting and they are smiling. There is no bigger prize for terror than today’s meeting.”

If the resolution had been approved by the council, the issue would then have gone to the U.N. General Assembly, where two-thirds of the 193 member countries would have to agree. As many as 140 U.N. members already recognize the Palestinian territories as a state — Spain announced its decision to become the latest during the Thursday debate. In 2012, the Palestinian territories were declared a permanent U.N. observer nation, the same status as the Vatican. But full membership has not been considered for more than a decade since it was tabled before coming to a vote in anticipation of a U.S. veto.

Iran used its time on the debate stage to defend its missile and drone barrage of Israel last weekend as “legitimate defense under international law” and called on the international community to compel Israel “to stop any further military adventurism against our interests.”

Iran’s military operations “have been concluded,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said. But if there was any retaliation or further use of force by Israel, he said, “Iran will not hesitate one bit to assert its inherent right to give a decisive and proper response.”

Amir-Abdollahian called the Iranian attack a proportionate response to Israel’s April 1 airstrike against its consulate in Damascus, which killed seven personnel from its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as well as Syrian civilians.

Michael Birnbaum contributed to this report.

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