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Palestinian UN envoy: US 'holding us hostage' ahead of membership vote

The UN Security Council will vote Thursday on full Palestinian membership in the United Nations, and though it appears likely to have the votes, the United States has signaled that it could use its veto to block the measure.
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

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As the Israel-Iran conflict takes center stage this week, Palestinian diplomats are pushing a vote on full Palestinian membership in the United Nations. Palestinian UN envoy Riyadh Mansour told Al-Monitor he is “confident” that a vote on Palestinian statehood, expected on Thursday, will get the necessary votes to pass, but added that the United States is threatening to veto the measure.

Mansour recently returned from a trip to Algeria alongside Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa for meetings with top Algerian decision-makers, including the president and prime minister. In addition to discussing the dire situation in Gaza and preventing an Israeli ground invasion in Rafah, the agenda there included efforts to achieve recognition of Palestine as a UN member state. The prime minister thanked Algeria, which currently holds a seat on the UN Security Council, for its support for Palestine’s bid and for “mobilizing support” for it, according to the Wafa news agency.

The last time the Palestinian delegation tried to pass such a resolution more than a decade ago it was unable to collect the minimum of nine votes needed to move the vote to the General Assembly. Now the delegation feels confident of reaching that number and wants to force the permanent member states to declare their positions. The Biden administration says it continues to support a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.

Mansour told Al-Monitor that Algeria is doing a lot to help the Palestinian cause at the Security Council and in funding the Palestinian Authority.

“The meetings in Algiers were very successful. We met with all senior leaders, and they offered direct support to the Palestinian government and coordinated with us on the next steps at the UN level,” Mansour said. He noted that the Algerians have given a “strong boost” to the Palestinian cause. 

UNSC sends mixed messages 

A UN Security Council committee considering Palestine's membership bid on Tuesday “was unable to make a unanimous recommendation” on whether it met the criteria, Reuters reported. Still, the delegation is expected to pursue the vote on Thursday.

Mansour said that he has had numerous discussions with Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who said that if Palestine is recognized as a full member by the United Nations, the US Congress will be unable to approve support for the UN or any of its worldwide programs. 

Under longstanding US law, Washington is required to stop funding to any UN agency that admits Palestine as a full member state. However, the law has not been consistently applied. After UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member state in 2011, the United States suspended contributions to the organization that same year and withdrew in 2017. It rejoined UNESCO and resumed funding last year. 

“They are holding us hostage to something that they didn’t apply to countries that are America’s enemies,” Mansour said, noting that North Korea, Cuba and Vietnam all are full member states. 

“They tell us we are friends, yet they say that the US Congress has made a law specifically against Palestinians. I am sure that if the American administration wants, it can find a way to allow the Security Council to approve our full membership in the same way that many other countries were inducted into full membership of the UN," Mansour said. 

Mansour was also critical of the United States for having done little to force Israel to honor UN Security Council Resolution 2377, calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza war during Ramadan, which ended last week. 

“Over 33,000 Palestinians were killed, 70% of whom are children and women, and yet the council is unable to insist on the implementation of its own resolution?” Mansour said.

In 2012, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution giving Palestine non-member observer state status. In this capacity, Palestine cannot sit on the UN Security Council or vote in the General Assembly. Full members must be approved by 9 of the 15 members of the Security Council followed by a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly.

Mansour expressed deep frustration at the lack of resolve at the Security Council. He attributed it largely to the ongoing chasm between the United States and Russia. “The council has been rendered ineffective due to the US-Russia conflict stemming from the war in Ukraine. They were unable to agree on a statement by the council calling on Israel and Iran to de-escalate,” Mansour told Al-Monitor.

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