Morocco World News
New York, September 22, 2011
Even after a formal Palestinian application is presented to become a United Nations member, the United States is likely to still attempt to stall and delay a Security Council vote. Despite heavy pressure on the Palestinians during the first day of the General Debate at the United Nations to delay their bid for UN membership, the Palestinians say that they still plan to submit a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General on Friday formally initiating a member-state application.
Under the rules of the UN, which has seen its membership expand from 51 states after its founding in 1945, to today 193 members, the Secretary-General forwards the application to the Security Council, which must decide whether to recommend the applicant to the General Assembly for approval.
The United States, which has sought for months to dissuade the Palestinians from applying for recognition as a state, will be placed in the politically isolating role of vetoing a Security Council recommendation if it can not convince other Security Council members to oppose the Palestinian bid.
To deflect the backlash of using its veto while all eyes are on the UN during the next week, the US could request that the Security Council applies a rule that has been rarely used in considering membership recommendations. According to the Security Council’s “Provisional Rules of Procedure”, a committee may be established among the 15 Security Council members to review the application. The committee would then report back to the Security Council on its findings.
Rule 59 states: “…Unless the Security Council decides otherwise, the application shall be referred by the President to a committee of the Security Council upon which each member of the Security Council shall be represented. The committee shall examine any application referred to it and report conclusions thereon to the Council…”
However, since 1953 the Security Council has rarely applied this rule, establishing such a committee on only one occasion (the application of Bangladesh in 1972). But in this case it is very conceivable that the US may call on the Security Council to set-up such a committee to examine the application further. The establishment of a committee can delay, potentially, for several months the Council having to vote on the Palestinians’ application.
For the United States, by avoiding having to cast a veto in the near future, this could deflate some of the expected backlash, when in several weeks or months from now there is less anticipation for a vote. The extra time would also allow the US to try to continue to develop some sort of Quartet statement or incentives that it thinks might be able to get the Palestinians to withdraw their bid.
In addition, it is speculated that following a US veto of their application, the Palestinians will go to the General Assembly to gain endorsement of a resolution granting Palestine non-member state observer status at the UN. The United States and Israel have objected to this proposal as well. Delaying a vote in the Security Council would thus hold up Palestine from attaining the enhanced status of “non-member state observer.” It is very unlikely that Palestinians would seek approval as a non-member state observer while an application for full UN membership is still being considered in the Security Council. In summary, such a tactic by the US could reduce much of the momentum building around Palestinian action this month at the UN.
Proponents of the Palestinians in the General Assembly could potentially counter a stalling tactic by calling for a special session of the General Assembly, considering the Security Council’s Rule 59 provision that an admissions committee should report back to the Council “not less that fourteen days in advance of such a session.”
On the other hand, the United States may also decide to avoid prolonging the holding of a vote, which could serve as a distraction to the Obama administration and the Security Council’s work over the next few months.
Meanwhile, new developments have emerged from the United Nations on the first day of the General Debate. The Associated Press reported French pressure on Palestinians to relinquish their aspirations for UN membership, and to instead seek non-member state observer status. However, under the proposal, President Abbas would still present a formal application for UN membership to the Secretary-General on Friday, but the Security Council would not immediately act on the bid. Seemingly it could do so by deferring its consideration to an admissions committee, which the Security Council members would establish. It is unclear if this plan would be acceptable to the US and Israel, as the enhanced status for the Palestinians in the General Assembly would likely bring with it benefits of statehood such as being able to join the International Criminal Court.
It is far from a foregone conclusion that the showdown between Palestinians and the Americans will play out over this next week.
*Benjamin Villanti is Morocco World News’ editor and contributor.
Editing by Adnane Bennis.
Photograph: David Karp/AP