Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Malki told TRT World that they are cultivating support in the Security Council to take a major stride at the UN.
UNITED NATIONS – Palestinian efforts to secure full UN member status appeared to have stalled this week, with foreign minister Riyad Malki telling TRT World that they would only trigger a vote once they have enough support among UN Security Council members.
Speaking on the sidelines of a UN ceremony in New York, Malki told TRT World that Palestinian officials were assessing their case before taking it to the 15-member Security Council – the only UN body empowered to confer full membership.
“We are studying that, to see when is really the right time to do it, when we have enough votes to present it,” Malki told TRT World on Tuesday. He later indicated that they could make the move within weeks.
The push for full UN membership did not seem to be gaining traction after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres on Monday without formally requesting the new status.
Some reports had suggested that Abbas would push for full membership while visiting New York on Monday and Tuesday for an event marking it taking over chairmanship of a bloc of developing countries at the UN.
On Tuesday, he told reporters that the Palestinians will seek full UN membership but offered no timetable.
In 2012, the 193-member UN General Assembly upgraded Palestine to the status of “non-member state” as Ramallah pushed for greater international recognition in the face of deadlocked peace talks with Israel.
Securing full membership is harder. The Palestinians would need nine votes in favour of the upgrade in the Security Council and no vetoes from one of its permanent members – which include Israel’s closest ally, the United States.
Last month, Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon said he was aware of Palestinian efforts to seek a UN upgrade in mid-January but that he was working behind the scenes to “stop the initiative”.
During the last Palestinian drive for full UN membership in 2014, Ramallah only managed to secure eight of the necessary nine votes, meaning the US did not need to risk international criticism by deploying its veto.
It remains unclear how many current council members back Palestinian membership now. Germany, Belgium, South Africa, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia took their two-year council seats on January 1.
While Abbas’s efforts to secure the upgrade were struggling, Palestinian officials were buoyed by a ceremony marking their new role as chairman of the Group of 77, a coalition of 134 mainly developing nations and China.
The 193-member General Assembly had to approve a resolution enabling the Palestinians to chair the G77 because Palestine is a non-member state. It did so in October over objections from Israel and the US.
In his acceptance speech, Abbas said Palestinians “suffer under the yoke of foreign occupation”.
“Israel’s continued colonization and occupation of the state of Palestine undermines our development … and obstructs cohesive future development for all peoples of the region,” Abbas told delegates.
Some Palestinians praise Abbas’s efforts to advance their cause at the UN, in spite of the blowback from Israel and the US administration of President Donald Trump, which has relocated the US embassy to Jerusalem over Palestinian objections.
But others say Abbas is losing credibility among Palestinians and is showboating at the UN to prop up his sagging popularity without effectively challenging Israel or the reality of settlement building on Palestinian soil.
In an interview, Diana Buttu, a former Palestinian negotiator, said that chairmanship of the G77 and other trophy accomplishments at the UN would not change the lives of hardship endured by many Palestinians.
“Unless it’s tied to a bigger strategy, in which they’re isolating Israel and pushing for sanctions on Israel, then it’s all for nothing and becomes window dressing,” Buttu told TRT World.
“Rather than engage in endless meetings, unless they tie it to some strategy in which Israel is held accountable, then it’s just puffing up the Palestinian Authority and is self congratulatory rather than anything else.”