Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appears determined to ask the United Nations to admit Palestine as a sovereign member state. But there is little chance of success at the moment.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that he opposes the Palestinians' drive to gain recognition as an independent country, an issue that may come up when he meets U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday.
Obama criticized the Palestinian push in his Middle East speech on Thursday, dismissing it as "symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations."
The Palestinians currently have the status of U.N. observers without voting rights. The Vatican and European Union have the same status.
WHAT DO THE PALESTINIANS, ISRAELIS AND OTHERS WANT?
Abbas wrote in the New York Times this week that the international community should recognize a Palestinian state at the United Nations in September and support its admission to the world body.
Obama said last year he hoped a Palestinian state could be admitted to the United Nations by the time world leaders gather in September in New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly session. The statement, U.S. officials say, was only an expression of hope, not a call for a vote this fall on Palestinian membership in the United Nations.
In either case, we are heading to a showdown at the United Nations General Assembly in September when there will be a vote on Palestinian statehood. For a new country to be admitted as a member of the UN requires a two thirds vote of the General Assembly and Security Council approval. Chances are, the GA will overwhelmingly approve the measure, but that alone does not carry the force of law. Rather, the Security Council would need to ratify this decision in order for Palestinian statehood to be a reality, and given President Obama’s implied threat of a veto, the chances are very slim that the question would even come up for a vote.
If Palestinians need any direction, they can look to Kosovo which is in precisely the kind of pre-state limbo that Palestine can expect after September’s General Assembly vote. So far, 75 countries have officially recognize Kosovo as a state, and it has been admitted to several international organizations (like the World Bank) as a full member. Yet, because of the threat of a Russian veto at the Security Council, Kosovo has not yet made the leap to a fully recognized state capable of joining the United Nations as a member. There has also never been a General Assembly vote on the Kosovo question.
Like Kosovo, once the hold-out Security Council member finally decides to withhold its veto, Palestine will breeze into statehood. The question is not whether this will happen, but when.