By Arab News
It is now clear the Palestinians have no majority backing for full UN membership.
The Security Council deadlock over the bid for UN membership, which was their ultimate diplomatic prize, has left the Palestinian leadership with only a few options. They have to decide whether to call a vote on the bid. Or they can go to the 193-member UN General Assembly and seek super-observer status as a first step to full membership.
At the Security Council, the Palestinians will not get the required nine votes out of 15 to approve membership. Eight countries on the council have openly declared support for the Palestinian bid or are likely to back it but Bosnia-Herzegovina, a swing state on the Security Council, said it would abstain on the Palestinian bid following enormous lobbying by Israel on its Serbian president who opposes UN membership.
Without Bosnia, the Palestinians lack the majority to force a vote on the council. And without a vote, the US need not veto, which it had vowed to do, sparing itself the opprobrium that would roil the region as Washington once again steps in to defend Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. There was no “Bosnia option” for Washington at UNESCO’s governing board meeting in Paris. Despite the knowledge of the cut in US funds, it approved Palestinian membership by a massive majority, with 107 nations voting in favor, 14 against and 52 abstaining.
Membership in UNESCO will enable the Palestinian Authority to register as its heritage such sites as the Nativity Church in Bethlehem and the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, both encircled by the Israeli occupation. But the success in UNESCO was only a temporary boost to the membership campaign. What the Palestinians wanted most was the Security Council’s blessing. They never expected to win at the Security Council, as the US has said it would veto the request. But the Palestinians hoped to muster the nine votes needed to pass a resolution, and so to expose the US as the main obstacle to their bid. If the US did defy most of mankind by casting its veto, this would have hurt the United States far more than it would hurt Palestine, definitively disqualifying the US from maintaining its monopoly stranglehold on any mouse wheel peace process.
The Palestinian strategy of taking their case to the UN was to extract a price on Washington for its defense of Israel no matter what it does. The adverse consequences of the US blocking Palestine’s membership were dazzlingly obvious. A veto would have outraged an already agitated and unstable Arab world.
President Mahmoud Abbas is to meet the Arab League secretary-general next Wednesday and some kind of decision on whether to seek a Security Council vote or try for super-observer status in a UN General Assembly is expected after that. The Palestinians could try again to push for full UN membership in a few weeks or months, or they could for now seek status as a nonmember observer state. But this would be a poor consolation prize amid the international fanfare created by Abbas’ dramatic UN bid announcement in September, and after the Security Council rebuffed.