Palestinians want April vote on full United Nations membership

Members of the United Nations Security Council vote on a Gaza resolution that demands an immediate ceasefire, in New York

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -The Palestinian Authority wants the United Nations Security Council to vote this month to make it a full member of the world body, the Palestinian U.N. envoy told Reuters on Monday, a move that can be blocked by Israel's ally the United States.

Riyad Mansour, who has permanent observer status in the U.N., made the Palestinian plans public as the war between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza nears a six-month milestone and Israel is expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Mansour told Reuters that the aim was for the Security Council to take a decision at an April 18 ministerial meeting on the Middle East, but that a vote had yet to be scheduled. He said a 2011 Palestinian application for full membership was still pending because the 15-member council never took a formal decision.

"The intention is to put the application to a vote in the Security Council this month," he added.

Malta is president of the Security Council for April. Malta's U.N. Ambassador Vanessa Frazier said she had yet to receive a formal request for action from the Palestinians.

Alongside a push to end the war, global pressure has grown for a resumption of efforts to broker a two-state solution - with an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The war began after Hamas fighters attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Israel retaliated by imposing a total siege on Gaza, then launching an air and ground assault that has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, health authorities in Gaza say.

UN APPROVAL

An application to become a full U.N. member needs to be approved by the Security Council - where the United States can cast a veto - and then at least two-thirds of the 193-member General Assembly.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Israel's U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan said that the Palestinian Authority had not met the required criteria for statehood in its 2011 bid for full U.N. membership and "has only moved further from the goals it should achieve since."

"In addition, whoever supports recognizing a Palestinian state at such a time not only gives a prize to terror, but also backs unilateral steps which are contradictory to the agreed upon principle of direct negotiations," Erdan said.

A Security Council committee assessed the Palestinian application in 2011 for several weeks. But the committee did not reach a unanimous position and the council never voted on a resolution to recommend Palestinian membership.

At the time, diplomats said the Palestinians did not have enough support in the Security Council to force a veto by the United States, which had said it opposed the move. A resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the U.S., Russia, China, France or Britain to be adopted.

Instead of pushing for a council vote, the Palestinians went to the U.N. General Assembly seeking to become a non-member observer state. The assembly approved de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine in November 2012.

Little progress has been made on achieving Palestinian statehood since the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the early 1990s. Among the obstacles are expanding Israeli settlements.

The Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank and is Israel's partner to the Oslo Accords. Hamas in 2007 ousted the Palestinian Authority from power in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli settlements risk eliminating any practical possibly of a Palestinian state, U.N. human rights chief Volker Turk said last month. He said the transfer by Israel of its own population into occupied territory amounted to a war crime.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration said in February that Israel's expansion of West Bank settlements was inconsistent with international law, signaling a return to long-standing U.S. policy on the issue that had been reversed by the previous administration of Donald Trump.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Don Durfee and Howard Goller)