Early today, the leaders of Christian churches in Jerusalem released a communiqué, announcing “the need to intensify our prayers and diplomatic efforts for peace between Palestinians and Israelis.” Among other things, the statement calls for a “two-state solution [that] serves the cause of peace and justice.” You can read the entire statement at this link (old/broken link: https://www.lpj.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1548%3Ales-eglises-de-jerusalem-soutiennent-la-candidature-palestinienne-a-lonu&catid=1%3Aactualite-locale&Itemid=124&lang=en). We asked Rev. Elias Mallon, CNEWA’s Education and Interreligious Affairs Officer, to help put this in context for us.
At the 66th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations which begins next Monday, it is expected that the Palestinian National Authority (P.N.A.) will apply for membership at the U.N. In order to receive member status the Palestinian application has to be approved by the Security Council, which consists of five permanent members and 10 member states elected by the General Assembly for a two-year term. The Permanent Five have the right to veto; the other 10 members do not. The United States, one of the Five, has made it clear that it will veto any Palestinian bid for member status at the U.N. A veto by any of the Permanent Five stops a proposal.
Given the unlikelihood of the Palestinians achieving member status, they can, nonetheless, upgrade their present status from being an “observer entity” to being an “observer state.” Acceptance as an observer state requires the majority vote of the General Assembly which consists of 193 member states. It is relatively certain that the P.N.A. will be granted observer state status, should it choose to apply. This would effectively recognize Palestine as a state, allow it to be a member of several U.N. organizations and give it the right to access the International Court at The Hague.
While it is relatively certain that the United States will veto a Palestinian application at the level of the Security Council, many other things are not clear. It is not absolutely certain that the Palestinians will actually make application for membership in the U.N. It is not clear how the countries of the European Union will vote, should such an application be made. It is also not clear how much the U.S. will be isolated from the world community by casting its veto or if, having cast the veto, the U.S. will ever again be seen as a credible, neutral partner in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.