Will Palestine join the UN as a member state?

A total of 140 countries have backed its bid for recognition but it faces veto from US

Demonstrators wave Palestinian flag in Frankfurt. Palestine's bid to join the UN appears to have little chance of success in its current form. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest on Israel-Gaza

The Palestinian Authority is making a renewed push for full membership at the UN, a move Israel's top ally, the US, opposes in its current form.

In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last week, Palestine’s envoy Riyad Mansour said Palestinian leaders had asked him to resubmit an application to become a full member state. The original request dates back to 2011.

The League of Arab States, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement wrote to Mr Guterres to support the bid.

“We wish to bring to your attention that, as of this date, 140 member states have recognised the state of Palestine,” said the joint letter, including a list of those countries.

If Palestine is recognised as a full member state, it will be able to engage in all UN processes, such as voting in the General Assembly and running for a seat on the Security Council.

It also would have obligations to fulfil, including financial contributions and abiding by the laws of the UN Charter.

“Importantly, this would also be a very symbolic step of international recognition for full Palestinian sovereignty,” Maya Ungar, UN analyst at the International Crisis Group, told The National.

What is the process for joining the UN?

The admission of new UN members is decided by the General Assembly but only if the Security Council first recommends an application.

No admission of a new member has been vetoed since 1976, when the US blocked Vietnam from joining. The South-East Asian nation joined the following year.

In September 2011, the PA failed to win UN recognition as an independent member state.

Riyad Mansour optimistic about Palestine becoming full member of UN – video

Riyad Mansour optimistic about Palestine becoming full member of UN

Riyad Mansour optimistic about Palestine becoming full member of UN

A year later, the UN decided the PA’s “non-member observer entity” status would be changed to “non-member observer state”, the same as the Vatican.

A membership request needs a two-thirds majority to be approved. A country cannot join the world body unless the Security Council and General Assembly approve.

To win the council's approval, the Palestinians would have to secure nine votes from the 15 members and no veto from any of the five permanent members: Britain, France, China, Russia and the US.

Seven of the council’s 15 current members recognise the state of Palestine – China, Russia, Ecuador, Mozambique, Algeria, Guyana and Sierra Leone.

What is the US position?

Crucial to Palestine's application is the position of the US, which holds a veto on the Security Council and can block Palestine's move.

Deputy US ambassador to the UN, Robert Wood, on Monday said the issue of full Palestinian membership is a “decision that should be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians”.

“It was a final status issue under [the Oslo Accords]. They need to work out an agreement and that's how full membership should come about.”

This suggests Palestine's current bid has no chance of being approved in its current form.

What happens if Palestine becomes a full member?

Full membership at the UN would have some consequences, Ms Ungar notes.

In addition to the responsibilities, opportunities and the increased legitimacy for their sovereignty, full membership would result in the US cutting the PA off from its Economic Support Fund.

“In last month's $1.2 trillion US Congressional funding bill, a clause was made to say that the PA would not be able to receive any money from this fund if they obtain full UN membership,” she said.

Updated: April 08, 2024, 6:01 PM