Understanding the Palestinians’ U.N. bid for statehood


Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the organization, are able and willing to carry out those obligations.

What is “peace-loving”?

Peace has been defined as not only the absence of war, but also the presence of justice. The Preamble of the United Nations Charter gives some possible answers: “We the peoples of the United Nations (are) determined…to establish conditions under which justice and respect for obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained; …and….to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest.”

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What are the obligations contained in the present Charter?

Chapter I, Article 2 gives some possible answers.

It states that member nations must, in order to maintain international peace and security, “act in accordance with the following Principles…”:

• “All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered…”

• “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

Does the Palestinian Government accept those obligations, and is it both able and willing to carry out those and other obligations set out in the U.N. Charter?

There are recent happenings for consideration by the United States, and other members of the Security Council in consideration of the possible application of the Palestinian Government for U.N. membership, which have already come to the attention of the Security Council. These happenings might provide some context in answering this question.

On May 19, 2011, Mr. Robert Sperry, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General, at the 654th meeting of the Security Council, made a statement to the Security Council on “the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.”

He noted, “…Popular protests and political change continue to sweep the Arab world and shake the unsustainable status quo found in many parts of the Middle East. The Arab-Israeli conflict will not be immune to those dramatic developments. One way or another, change will come to it, too. The change must be shaped to positive ends.”

He then spoke of a ceremony on May 4, 2011, when an accord was signed by Fatah and Hamas, and a subsequent meeting in Cairo for discussions on the implementation of the accord.

Under the accord, he said, a Palestinian Government would be formed. Fatah President Abbas reiterated his full commitment to the platform of the PLO, “which has long recognized Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and renounced violence and terrorism, and which remains committed to existing agreements,” and stated that any government he commissions would support this programme.

He then noted that although some Hamas statements have suggested it is ready to submit to national decisions, other Hamas statements included extreme positions – statements calling on the PLO to renounce its recognition, lauding Osama bin Laden and stressing that Hamas’ sole programme is resistance.

Those statements by Hamas “are a reminder of why deep international concerns remain and why we must follow developments vigilantly,” said Mr. Sperry.

Mr. Sperry then turned to “the serious confrontation that took place on 15 May between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian Territory, as Palestinians demonstrated in large numbers, marking what they call “Nakba Day.” He pointed out that in some areas Israeli IDF opened fire to repel the demonstrators. Those protests “involved violations of the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon and the disengagement line along the occupied Golan Heights, and (we) stress the importance of the governments in the area ensuring respect for these lives,” he said.

Unknown so far is whether and to what extent these recent events affect the way in which the United States and other members of the Security Council address the possible application of the Palestinian Government, or the Palestinian Authority, for membership in the United Nations. Will the requirements that an applicant for membership in the U.N. be “peace-loving” and that it accept the obligations set forth in the U.N. Charter, be analyzed and addressed seriously? And how might U.N. General Assembly member nation Israel, if asked, respond to those questions? Only time will tell.