The United Nations Can’t Vote Palestine into Existence

May 20, 2024 | Elliott Abrams
About the author: Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the chairman of the Tikvah Fund.

On May 11, the UN General Assembly voted by a margin of 143 to nine to give Palestine de-facto status as a member state. A number of European countries have also recognized a state of Palestine. But, Elliott Abrams observes, such formal recognition does not create such a state:

In the case of “Palestine,” the more people believe that it exists and must be recognized immediately, the less likely it is that a real “state of Palestine” will ever come into existence. Why? Because the chances that the prerequisites for the creation of an independent, sovereign, peaceful Palestinian state will be met decline when countries and UN bodies stop demanding them. Why bother going through the years of hard work to control violence, end terrorism, stop teaching hate in schools and mosques, build institutions, and negotiate peacefully with Israel, when the General Assembly is happy to give you a pass?

Still, that doesn’t mean this is a symbolic move without consequences:

This UN vote is not pure theater. It did not elevate “Palestine” to full membership in the United Nations, because only the Security Council can do that and a U.S. veto prevented it. But the General Assembly did upgrade “Palestine’s” presence: it is now seated among member states in alphabetical order. . . . It can do pretty much anything in the UN except vote.

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