Issue 52: Palestine requests full membership at the UN

Palestinian Observer to the UN in New York, Nasser al-Kidwa, has called for the admission of “Palestine” as a full Member State of the UN by September, regardless of the outcome of the current bilateral negotiations with Israel.

Analysis:The formal representation of the Palestinian cause at the UN began with the granting of permanent observer status to the PLO in 1974, one year before the “Zionism equals racism” resolution was passed. In 1988, the General Assembly decided that the PLO would be designated as “Palestine,” and the communications of its observer would be issued and circulated as official UN documents. Ironically, the delegation was admitted into the Asian regional group, a group that continues to bar Israel’s entry.

In 1998, the UN further upgraded the PLO’s status, giving it rights almost equal to those of Member States, including the right to participate in all general debates of both the UN and international conferences, to raise points of order, and to co-sponsor draft resolutions. In short, the PLO already has significant rights within the world body.

Further upgrading this status in the absence of a comprehensive peace agreement would be an imprudent internationalization of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Last summer we witnessed this disturbing trend when signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention allowed the politicization of humanitarian law by meeting to discuss Israel’s – and only Israel’s – conduct under the Convention. No other case of occupation in the past 50 years has been similarly discussed.

Right now, both Israel and the Palestinians are engaged in serious bilateral negotiations. These efforts merit our support. And support for this process requires respect for the Oslo stricture that neither party take dramatic unilateral actions that alter the status quo prior to a final-status agreement. Clearly, Observer al-Kidwa’s attempt to upgrade Palestinian status within the UN violates the spirit of Oslo.

The proper course for the world body is a policy of evenhandedness and support for the bilateral peace process. Indeed, the G-8 leaders just recently recognized this when they stated, in reference to the two parties: “We welcome their courageous decision to continue negotiations and confirm our support for their endeavors.” Let this too be the message of the United Nations General Assembly.

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