Skip to content
ELCA Blogs

Peace Not Walls

Palestine becomes UN non-member state with observer status; Israel to build 3000 new settlement units

Photo from Haaretz

In an historic vote at the United Nations Thursday, Nov. 29, exactly 65 years after passing the Partition Plan for Palestine, the General Assembly voted by a huge majority to recognize Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member state with observer status in the UN.  138 countries voted in favor of the resolution, 41 abstained and 9 voted against: Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, U.S., Panama, The Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, and Micronesia. 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, closing his speech to the UN, asserted:

The support of the countries of the world for our endeavor is a victory for truth, freedom, justice, law and international legitimacy, and it provides tremendous support for the peace option and enhances the chances of success of the negotiations. Your support for the establishment of the State of Palestine and for its admission to the United Nations as a full member is the greatest contribution to peacemaking in the Holy Land.

The US opposed the move, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling it “unfortunate and counterproductive.”  U.S. UN envoy Susan Rice said the resolution does not establish Palestine as state, that it prejudges the outcome of negotiations, and ignores questions of security.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Proser responded to President Abbas’ speech, saying  “the UN was founded to advance the cause of peace. Today the Palestinians are turning their back on peace. Don’t let history record that today the UN helped them along on their march of folly.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying the world had watched a speech “full of dripping venom and false propaganda against the IDF and Israeli citizens. This is not how someone who wants peace speaks.”

An Israeli spokesman announced on Friday that Israel will build 3000 new housing units in the illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and that it will advance plans for the controversial E1 area outside Jerusalem.  If the E1 settlement plans are fully developed by Israel, it would threaten the contiguity of any future Palestinian state by virtually cutting the West Bank into northern and southern portions.

Read full Haaretz article | Read President Abbas’ full speech

Other reactions to the vote:

World weighs in on UN Palestine vote
World headlines showed a mix of emotions – but a lot of common ground on how much impact this may have on prospects for peace.

UN vote celebration in Ramallah

After Vote, Palestinians and Israel Search for the Next Step

Vatican hails UN vote, wants Jerusalem guarantees

Palestinian Legal strategy against Israel: The Real Prize is Europe AND Israeli Reaction to UN Vote: Politicians Burn Palestinian Flag, Pundits fear International Criminal Court

Supporting Palestine at the UN today is a vote for peace in the Middle East by Hanan Ashrawi

UNESCO Supports Palestinian Membership, Latest CMEP Bulletin

Despite strong opposition from the US and several European countries, UNESCO has shown initial support for Palestinian membership.  The US has hinted at reprisals based on prohibitions on granting membership to those who do not meet certain requirements for a state.

Meanwhile, the drama of what will happen to the Palestinians bid for UN membership continues, as noted in the latest CMEP bulletin

What’s Next at the UN?
Congress Gets Serious
Tensions on the Ground
Settlement Expansion Announced
Calls to Annex the West Bank?
Happy New Year


Differing Views on Palestinian UN Statehood Bid

The plot is thickening around the Palestinian’s plan to go to the UN and ask for member status.  Israel’s ambassador Ron Prosor is reported to have stated that there is no way Israel will be able to block the UN General Assembly from recognizing Palestine.  Meanwhile, the US Consul General in Jerusalem Daniel Rubenstein says that the US will cut aid to the Palestinians if they continue on this path.

Although some predict that it will cause Palestinians some problems if Palestine becomes a member state in the UN, others disagree.

This page on the CMEP website has links to several organizations’ compilations of frequently asked questions and resources about the UN statehood initiative.   


CMEP Bulletin – August 26, 2011

In the August 26 CMEP bulletin, read updates on escalating violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Egypt/Israeli diplomatic tension, the continuing controversy about Palestinian statehood through the United Nations and other items.

Palestinians set September 20 to submit statehood bid to UN

According to several news sources, the Palestinians have set September 20 as the date to submit a proposal to the UN for member status.   The news comes in the midst of massive settlement approvals by Israel that drew strong criticism from the US and the Quartet and widespread protests among Israelis about their economic welfare.           Read more      |     Hear debate on Voice of America

BBC offers questions and answers about call for Palestinian statehood through the UN

The West Bank then and now.

The West Bank then and now. (Photo from BBC web)

Rumors and speculation are flying about a possible bid by the Palestinians to go directly to the UN to have Palestine declared a state.  In order to do this, a petition must be turned in by July 15. 

President Obama has stated he is against such an action because it is “unilateral” and by-passes the US peace negotiations.  Even the talk of this has led to several congressional leaders threatening to defund the UN if they vote for a Palestinian state.  

Palestinians claim that the US-backed peace process has only led to a more than doubling of the illegal Israeli settlement population and an entrenchment of the colonialization of the West Bank, which is against international law and countless UN resolutions.  They find it ironic that these new “realities on the ground” – huge, sprawling settlement blocs – are now Israel’s starting point from which to start negotiations rather than the 1967 Green Line, which international law would suggest.  They also find it ironic that an appeal to the most multilateral organization on earth would be labeled unilateral. 

Israelis want any peace to come through negotiations.  Prime Minister Netanyahu claims that the real roadblock to peace is that Palestinians won’t recognize Israel as Jewish state.

Unilateral is in the Eye of the Beholder

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, reacts to Obama/Merkel statement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has stated that if there is not sufficient progress in negotiations, the Palestinians plan to pursue recognition of Palestinian statehood in the United Nations this September.  The US has stated their opposition to this, and yesterday, President Obama and German Chancellor Andrea Merkel made a joint statement urging the Palestinians to stop that process because it was “unilateral.”

Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi disagreed, stating:

“Far from acting unilaterally, Palestinians are bringing their case for statehood before the United Nations, the world’s preeminent multilateral body. Self-determination and respect for the sovereignty of nations are principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, making the UN a natural forum to resolve this issue.”

“You do not leave an occupied people at the mercy of those who occupy them and who act unilaterally in violation of international law by continuing to demolish homes, annex land, build settlements, erect apartheid walls and revoke IDs.

On the contrary, come September, we expect President Obama and Chancellor Merkel to support the involvement of the United Nations as a positive step forward in efforts to secure regional peace and safeguard stability, and to recognize that the greatest threat to regional peace and security is Israel’s refusal to respect Palestinian rights and international law.”     Read article

Meanwhile, pressure is building in the US to avert this bid for Palestinian statehood via the UN.  One bill being debated would withdraw funding from the UN if it recognizes a Palestinian state.  Read more   |    Read bill