UN not route for Palestinian state: The US

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has for decades resisted a Palestinian state and leads a far-right government with members hostile to the Palestinian Authority

Protesters hold a Palestinian flag as they gather outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as judges rule on emergency measures against Israel following accusations by South Africa that the Israeli military operation in Gaza is a state-led genocide, in The Hague, Netherlands, 26 January, 2024.Reuters file photo

The United States on Wednesday opposed a Palestinian push for full membership at the United Nations, with Washington saying it backed statehood but after negotiations with Israel.

“We support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.

“That is something that should be done through direct negotiations through the parties, something we are pursuing at this time, and not at the United Nations,” he said, without explicitly saying that the United States would veto the bid if it reaches the Security Council.

Miller said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been actively engaged in establishing “security guarantees” for Israel as part of the groundwork for a Palestinian state.

President Joe Biden’s administration has increasingly highlighted support for a Palestinian state, with a reformed Palestinian Authority in charge both in the West Bank and Gaza, as it looks for a way to close the ongoing war in which its ally Israel is seeking to eliminate Hamas from the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has for decades resisted a Palestinian state and leads a far-right government with members hostile to the Palestinian Authority, which holds limited autonomy in sections of the West Bank.

Under longstanding legislation by the US Congress, the United States is required to cut off funding to UN agencies that give full membership to a Palestinian state.

The law has been applied selectively. The United States cut off funding in 2011 and later withdrew from the UN cultural and scientific agency UNESCO, but President Joe Biden’s administration returned, saying it was better to be present.

Robert Wood, the US deputy representative to the United Nations, said that recognition of a Palestinian state by the world body as a whole would mean “funding would be cut off to the UN system, so we’re bound by US law.”

“Our hope is that they don’t pursue that, but that’s up to them,” Wood said of the Palestinians’ bid.

Palestine relaunches bid to become UN member state

The Palestinian Authority has submitted a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asking for the Security Council to reconsider a longstanding application for statehood in April.

Any request to become a UN member state must first be recommended by the Security Council -- where Israel’s primary backer the United States as well as and four other countries wield vetoes -- and then endorsed by a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas launched the statehood application in 2011. It was not considered by the Security Council but the General Assembly the following year granted observer status to the “State of Palestine.”

Observers believe the Palestinian push for membership is unlikely to reach the assembly as the United States, Israel’s closest ally, could use its Security Council veto power to derail the recommendation.

“I find it very hard to see the US swallowing this proposal.” Richard Gowan, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, told AFP, noting that it took months for Washington to agree not to block a council resolution calling for a Gaza ceasefire.

“As far as Washington is concerned, forcing Palestinian statehood up the agenda is simply likely to make coaxing Israel into a ceasefire harder,” Gowan said.

To win the council’s approval, the Palestinians would have to secure nine votes from the 15 members and no veto from any of the five permanent members: Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States.

For now, Israel has clearly rejected a two-state solution, and its parliament voted overwhelmingly in February against any unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Several European countries -- Britain, France and Spain -- have raised the possibility of considering recognition.

In February, French President Emmanuel Macron said such a move was no longer “taboo.”

A new draft Security Council resolution written by France -- now in the early stages of negotiations -- raises the idea of “intent to welcome the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations,” according to a text seen by AFP.

In November 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to divide the British Mandate for Palestine into two states -- one Jewish, one Arab.

But only Israel was established on 14 May, 1948, sparking a war between the new nation and several Arab countries.

For Gowan, “the Palestinians know that they have a moment to push this issue now, which may fade away if there is a ceasefire and UN members focus on other issues.”