The Security Council blocked Palestine’s bid to become a full member of the United Nations due to a United States veto on a draft resolution.

The Security Council on 18 April 2024 blocked Palestine’s bid to become a full member of the United Nations due to a United States veto on a draft resolution that would have recommended the granting of such status.

The proposal, submitted by Algeria, received 12 votes in favor, with the United States casting a negative vote and Switzerland and the United Kingdom abstaining.  A Council resolution requires at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes from its five permanent members — China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States — to pass.  The Algerian draft failed, owing to a negative vote cast by a permanent member.

If adopted, the draft would have had the 15-member Council recommend to the 193-member General Assembly that “the State of Palestine be admitted to membership in the United Nations”.

In 2011, Palestine applied to become a full UN Member State.  Although that aspiration did not materialize, it obtained the status of a non-member observer State in November 2012 through an Assembly vote of 138 in favor to nine against (Canada, Czech Republic, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Panama, Palau, United States), with 41 abstentions.

An application for admission to UN membership must be approved by the Council before being forwarded to the Assembly, where the matter requires at least two-thirds support to pass.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

Introducing the draft resolution, the representative of Algeria said that he is doing so on behalf of his Government, the Arab Group, the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement, and countless peace-loving countries, urging Council members to vote for the text and the sake of Palestinians.  “It is the least we could do to honor the debts we owe to its people,” he said. Palestine fulfills membership criteria as defined in the UN Charter.  “It is time for Palestine to take its rightful place among the community of nations,” he declared, adding:  “Peace will come from Palestine’s inclusion, not from its exclusion.”  Failing to do so is a denial of the Council’s responsibilities, an unforgivable mistake, and a license to continue injustice and impunity.

Explanation of Votes

Speaking after the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation, spotlighted the simple question before the Council today: “Are the Palestinians worth being part of the global family?”  While most of the international community has consistently answered in the affirmative, the United States believes differently, he noted — namely, that the Palestinians “do not deserve to have their State”.  For that reason, Washington, D.C., is ready to turn a blind eye to Israel’s crimes against civilians in Gaza, force them to submit to the occupying Power, transform them into servants and second-class persons, and, perhaps, oust them from their territory once and for all.  The United States veto today “is a hopeless attempt to stop the inevitable course of history”, he stressed, adding that the results of the vote “speak for themselves”.  He therefore called on the United States to “listen to the voice of reason”, consider the consequences of its decision, and join other Council members’ efforts to establish an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The representative of the United States expressed support for Palestinian Statehood within a comprehensive peace agreement.  A sustainable peace can only be achieved via a two-state solution with Israel’s security guaranteed.  His country has long been clear that “premature actions” at the UN, even with the best intentions, will not achieve Statehood for the Palestinian people.  The United States voted against the draft because there was no unanimity among the Admissions Committee members on whether the applicant met the membership criteria outlined in Article IV of the UN Charter.  He said the United States has long called on the applicant to undertake reforms to help establish the attributes for readiness for Statehood.  He underscored that this vote does not reflect opposition to Palestinian Statehood but is an acknowledgment that it will only come from direct negotiations between the parties.

The representative of France said the time has come to achieve a comprehensive political settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution.  France supported the draft as Palestine’s admission as a full UN member could facilitate the implementation of such as solution and strengthen the Palestinian Authority.

The representative of Guyana said that 13 years after the last request, another call for justice by the Palestinian people was made today.  However, “the Council’s response was not enough to deliver that justice”, she said, noting that, since 1947, there have been at least 792 formal Council meetings on the Palestinian question.  While the Council has largely been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, this sympathy has not generated enough political will to achieve a comprehensive, just, and lasting solution.  “If the occupying Power were held to account for its continued violation of international law, the path to a free and independent Palestine would have been cleared a long time ago”, she said.

The representative of Slovenia said that his delegation supported the draft and Palestine’s membership in the United Nations.  The two-state solution, under which two democratic States — Israel and Palestine — live side by side in peace is the only long-term sustainable option.  Membership in the UN is not an alternative to negotiations, but complementary to them. The UN should play a crucial role in the peace process, and therefore both States should have an equal status at the UN, he said.

The representative of the Republic of Korea recalled that, although his country first applied for UN membership in 1949, it was not granted that status until 1991.  As such, he emphasized that his country “can attest to the meaning of aspirations to be admitted to this paramount international organization”. His delegation voted in favour of the draft resolution because renewed efforts are needed to revitalize a path to the two-state solution, he said, adding that its vote today “does not constitute bilateral recognition of Palestine as a State”.  This matter will be considered in the future at a time conducive to the resolution of the conflict.

The representative of the United Kingdom said her country is committed to a two-state solution.  Recognition of a Palestinian State should not be at the start of the process, but it does not need to be at the very end of it, she said.  She called for the crisis in Gaza to be fixed first, noting that Gaza must be part of a future Palestinian State.  But Hamas is still in control of parts of it and Israeli hostages remain in captivity, she underlined, stating that this shows the process is still at the start.  Ensuring Hamas is no longer in charge of Gaza and removing its capacity to attack Israel are unavoidable steps on the road to peace, as is supporting Palestinian Government reforms.  Her country abstained because a focus must be kept on getting aid in and getting hostages out, then making progress to a sustainable ceasefire without a return to fighting.

The representative of Japan expressed regret that, despite the adoption of a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, this objective has not been attained, and the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.  “Japan has strongly upheld the Palestinian right to self-determination, and consistently supported a two-state solution,” he said, recalling that his country voted in favor of the 2012 General Assembly resolution granting Palestine observer State status at the United Nations.  Similarly, Japan voted in favor of today’s draft resolution as “a comprehensive decision, recognizing that Palestine meets the criteria for admission to the UN membership”.

The representative of Switzerland, whose delegation abstained, noted that it would be preferable to determine Palestinians’ membership at the UN at a future stage — “once there has been peace”.  Voicing concern over the catastrophic situation in the Middle East, she underscored the need to ensure the implementation of the Council’s resolution and a ceasefire without further ado to restore political solutions to the conflict.

The representative of China said that today is a sad day. Because of the veto by the United States, the application of Palestine for its full membership in the UN has been rejected.  It is unacceptable that some countries are challenging Palestine’s eligibility for membership.  Some countries make direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel “a prerequisite”, claiming that Palestine’s membership in the UN can only be the result of negotiations.  “This is putting the cart before the horse,” he asserted.

The representative of Ecuador recalled that his country recognized Palestine as a free, independent State on 24 December 2010.  In 2012, it co-sponsored the General Assembly resolution considering observer status for the State of Palestine and, since 2014, it has maintained an embassy in Ramallah while Palestine has one in Quito.  “Today, once again, Ecuador’s vote has shown our commitment to the Palestinian people, reaffirming our recognition that we made 14 years ago,” he emphasized.  He also expressed hope that, in the “very near” future, conditions will exist such that the Council will unanimously allow Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations.

The representative of Mozambique underscored that people are born with the inherent right to self-determination, independence, and sovereignty, as anchored in the Charter.  He reminded the Council that, as of today, 140 UN Member States have recognized Palestine.  “This quasi-universal recognition is a testament that Palestine fulfills the requirement of Statehood”, including population, territory, government, and the capacity to engage in relations with other States, he said.  Conditions are ripe for Palestine to be a full member of the UN.  Palestine is a peace-loving nation and has shown the willingness to carry out the obligations of the Charter, he added.

The representative of Sierra Leone noted that 13 years after Palestine’s application was first considered by the Security Council Admissions Committee, there is a recognition of the basis for such a request.  Highlighting General Assembly resolution 181 (1947), which recommends the establishment of an independent Arab and an independent Jewish State, he said his country voted in favour of the draft resolution that would have strengthened the two-state solution.  While the membership of the State of Palestine may have been delayed, “it cannot be denied”, he concluded.

The representative of Algeria expressed gratitude to all those who voted in favor.  “The overwhelming support sends a crystal clear message — the State of Palestine deserves its rightful place among the UN Members,” he said, adding:  “We will return stronger and more vocal and backed by the overwhelming majority of the General Assembly”.  He pledged that Algeria’s effort will not cease until the State of Palestine becomes a full member of the UN.

The representative of Malta, Council President for April, said that her country made a clear choice by supporting a two-state solution and in favour of an idea that has enjoyed the support of the vast majority of the international community for decades.  “UN membership is a necessary step for the Palestinians to achieve equal footing with the rest of the international community,” she asserted.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine underscored:  “Our right to self-determination has never once been subject to bargaining or negotiation.”  It is inalienable and eternal, and not subject to manipulation, domination, or conditions.  “Especially not by Israel — the occupying Power, the ethnic-cleansing Power, the colonial Power,” he stressed, despite its determination to evict Palestinians from their homeland, eliminate their identity, uproot their civilization, and besiege their future.  Underscoring that “we will not disappear”, he said that Palestinians remain on their land out of patience, steadfastness, hope, and sacrifice despite oppression, exile, enslavement, persecution, displacement, and eviction.  Stating that his delegation came to the Council today to “salvage what can be saved”, he noted that most Council members stood on the side of justice, freedom, and hope “in line with the legal and ethical principles that must govern our world”.  He also thanked all those who supported Palestine’s request for UN membership for understanding Palestinians’ pain at this moment.

Emphasizing that Palestine accepted the two-state solution as an international vision of peace and engaged in the peace process, he said that Palestinian leadership continues to be committed to this peaceful track.  He questioned, however, if Israel is a true partner for peace, stressing that it insists on occupation, murder, and siege “to snuff out any hope of a sovereign Palestinian State”.  Asking those present if they will give Israel the time it needs to annex Palestinian land, the immunity it needs to evict and kill, and the right to veto Palestine’s full UN membership, he underscored that such inclusion is not “symbolic”.  Rather, it is a manifestation of Palestinians’ right to self-determination and “an investment in peace”, he urged, adding:  “We don’t want to replace anyone, we want to enter your club as an equal.”  Also stated that Palestinians know best what a just solution is — a free Palestine — he reiterated:  “We will not disappear.”

The representative of Israel thanked the United States, in particular President Joseph Biden, for standing up for “truth and morality in the face of hypocrisy and politics”.  Calling the draft resolution destructive, he said the Palestinian Authority does not meet the basic criteria, has no authority over its territory, and supports terror.  He questioned how Palestinians can be called peace-loving when they are paying terrorists to slaughter Israelis.  None of their leaders condemns terrorism or the 7 October massacre.  They call Hamas their brothers, he added, and they do not recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State.  He noted that the Palestinian representative at the meeting does not represent Hamas, and in turn does not represent at least half of the Palestinian people.

“Most of you decided to reward Palestinian terror with [a] Palestinian State,” he said, saying these votes will embolden Palestinian rejectionism and make peace almost impossible.  Despite the evidence he has brought to the Council, speaking to it “is like speaking to a brick wall”, he said, adding:  “I pray that the day will come when you will understand the magnitude of the mistake you are making here.  I pray that you will understand before it is too late.”


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