|The question of Palestine’s UN status divided both the domestic and international communities [REUTERS]|
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), submitted a formal request for Palestine’s admittance as a full-member state into the United Nations on September 23, 2011 – sparking international debate and revealing political biases that for many were hard to swallow.
The request, which was handed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, required a two-thirds vote in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the endorsement of at least nine of the 15 UN Security Council (UNSC) members to be approved.
The United States, however, vowed to veto the measure if it was brought before the UNSC – a position that seemed to contradict a statement made by US President Barack Obama at the UNGA a year earlier, in which he envisioned Palestine’s admittance into the body by 2011.
Abbas, refusing to be deterred by the US’ position, took to the UNGA to make his case.
“At a time when the Arab peoples affirm their quest for democracy – the Arab Spring – the time is now for the Palestinian Spring, the time for independence,” he said in a speech to the 66th session of the assembly.
Abbas also outlined Palestine’s grievances with Israel and affirmed the PLO’s commitment to a two-state solution to their decades-long conflict.
While Israel and its supporters decried the move as an attempt to sidestep peace negotiations and unilaterally declare a state, Abbas asserted that full membership would only put Palestinians in a better position to negotiate a just and lasting peace with Israel.
Divisions within the Palestinian community had also begun to emerge – with the Hamas faction distancing itself for political and ideological reasons; and activists claiming that the move jeopardised the rights of diaspora Palestinians.
By the year-end, however, fervour surrounding the issue had ceased – as voting on Palestine’s UN status had
become indefinitely stalled due to backroom wrangling.
The US and the Quartet on Middle East Peace lobbied UNSC member states not to support the PLO’s bid so that it could avoid having to use its veto power.
Meanwhile, the PLO – resigned that it would not be able to secure the support of nine UNSC states – began expressing interest in a possible comprise.
Palestine did achieve a minor victory in October when the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) defied US threats of censure and voted with resounding support to grant it full-member status.
But with the US supporting Israel in its efforts to block Palestine’s admittance as a full-member state into the body as a whole, it doesn’t appear likely that the PLO’s bid will pass in 2012.