Palestine was admitted as non-member observer state in the UN November 29, 2012. After 65 years of dispossession, 45 years of occupation, and 20 years of failed peace attempts, the Palestinian people are one step closer to self-determination in their own state. The international community backed Palestine’s UN bid with an overwhelming majority of 138 nations who voted yes. Only nine countries voted against: Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, USA, Panama, The Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru and Micronesia. 41 states abstained from voting including Germany. For an overview of the vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the Palestinian UN bid click here.

For comments by former USA Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, USA’s UN envoy Susan Rice and extracts from Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ speech and Israeli Ambassador to the UN, ROn Prosor’s reply to this speech, which took place prior to the voting click here.

The upgrade to a non-member observer state gives Palestine the same status as the Vatican. Most importantly this new status means that Palestinians now have access to the International Criminal Court.

Already,131 countries have formally recognised Palestine as a state and this number is growing every day. Most of these recognitions came after the PLO’s National Council (PNC) declared the independence of Palestine in 1988.

Source: Al Jazeera

The Question of Palestine in the United Nations

The United Nations has been working on the question of Palestine since the first special session of the General Assembly on 28 April 1947, which established a body to investigate the issue and return with its recommendations. Over 60 years later, the range of the UN’s work on the issue has continued to adapt to meet new challenges and address changing realities on the ground.
Learn more about the Question of Palestine

Former Status of Palestine in the UN
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) had observer status at the UN, which allowed PLO representatives to attend meetings and deliver speeches, but not to vote on resolutions or other substantive matters. Observer status is generally reserved for intergovernmental organisations, including the European Union and the Arab League. A few non-governmental organisations, like the Red Cross, also have observer status.

The reason why Palestinians want membership in the UN
Twenty years of US-led peace talks have gotten nowhere and therefore Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants a vote in the United Nations to bestow the Palestinians with the cherished mantle of statehood. However, he recognises that negotiations with Israel will still be needed to establish a properly functioning state. Justifying the move, the Palestinians point to the success of a Western-backed, two-year plan to build institutions ready for statehood, which they say is now finished.

How the UN admit new member states
Countries seeking to join the United Nations usually present an application to the UN secretary-general, who passes it to the Security Council to assess and vote on. If the 15-nation council approves the membership request, it is passed to the General Assembly for approval. A membership request needs a two-thirds majority, or 129 votes, for approval. A country cannot join the United Nations unless both the Security Council and the General Assembly approve its application.

Recognition of the 1967 borders
By placing the state firmly in the context of territory seized by Israel in the 1967 war will provide clear terms of reference and will mean Israel could no longer call the land “disputed”. Instead, it will make clear it is “occupied”. Besides granting Palestine the all-important title “state”, diplomats say it might enable the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court, from which it could pursue legal cases against Israel over the partial blockade of Gaza or regarding the settlements. Israel fears this will in turn enable Palestinians to start legal proceedings at the ICC against some 500,000 Israelis who live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Learn more about the facts behind Palestine’s UN bid on Al Jazeera

For a more detailed overview of Palestine’s application ofr UN membership visit the Negotiations Afffairs Department.

Key UN Resolutions

It should be noted that the UN has passed more than 150 resolutions regarding Israel and Palestine since 1947. We have selected some of them, but Aljazeera offers a timeline with key moments at the United Nations which can be accessed by clicking here.

A demilitarised Jerusalem where all residents of Palestine ahs free access to the city and Palestinian Refugees have the right to return.
General Assembly Resolution 194, Dec. 11, 1948

Israel’s occupation of Palestine is Illegal.
Security Council Resolution 242, Nov. 22, 1967

Israel’s settlements in Palestine are Illegal.
Security Council Resolution 446, March 22, 1979

Palestinian have the right to Self-Determination.
General Assembly Resolution 3236, November 22, 1974

Reaffirmation of a Palestinian State.
Security Council Resolution 1397, March 12, 2002

Acknowledgement of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of the Wall.
General Assembly Resolution ES-10/15 , August 2, 2004