Despite its new leadership position, Palestine’s bid for statehood at the UN still faces significant hurdles, and its new position will not change Palestine’s status as a UN “permanent observer,” which prevents Palestine from voting in the General Assembly.
NEW YORK — The Group of 77, a bloc of developing nations at the UN, has chosen Palestine’s delegation as its chair for 2019, a move that will likely be seen as a diplomatic win for Palestine and a loss for Israel and the U.S. The latter two countries have been arguing against increasing Palestine’s political power in the international body until a peace agreement, such as the “peace” plan soon to be released by the Trump administration, has been accepted by the Israeli and Palestinian governments.
Palestine’s ascendance to the leadership of the Group of 77 significantly increases its political clout, as the group, named for the original number of nations in the bloc upon its formation in 1964, is now comprised of 135 countries and represents around 80 percent of the world’s population. The group was originally created to advance the interests of developing nations and increase their collective negotiating capacity, in order to counter the historically disproportionate influence of Western nations, particularly the United States, at the United Nations.
Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s permanent observer at the UN, told The New York Times that Palestine’s new leadership position would aid its bid for statehood status at the UN — long a goal of the Palestine’s UN delegation. “[The U.S. and Israel] are still denying we are a state,” Mansour stated in a phone interview with the Times. “We walk like a state. We quack like a state. Therefore we are a state.”
However, despite the new leadership position, Palestine’s bid for statehood at the UN still faces significant hurdles, and its new position will not change Palestine’s status as a UN “permanent observer,” which prevents Palestine from voting in the General Assembly but allows it to join important UN bodies such as UNESCO and the International Criminal Court.
Yet, the growing importance of Palestine at the UN may aid efforts by its delegation to file official complaints against Israel for the increasing presence of illegal settlements and Israeli human-rights abuses against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Unsurprisingly, Israel sharply criticized the decision of the Group of 77 to appoint Palestine as its chair. In a statement given to The New York Times, Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon stated:
The goal of the Group of 77 originally was to facilitate the economic advancement of underdeveloped nations. It is unfortunate that it will now become a platform for spreading lies and incitement. This will not promote the G-77’s goals, and encourages the Palestinians to not engage in negotiations for peace.”
The United States has yet to issue a statement on Palestine’s new leadership position, but is likely to follow Israel’s lead in condemning the Group of 77’s decision, given that the U.S.’ UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, frequently criticizes the UN for its “anti-Israel bias.” Haley’s concerns about this perceived bias led her to remove the U.S. from the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year and to veto several UN Security Council resolutions aimed at condemning Israel’s massacre of unarmed protestors during the Great Return March in the Gaza Strip.