Palestine’s Application for UN Membership

October 04, 2011

The right to self determination of the Palestinian people, like that of all people, is an inalienable right that is not up for negotiations.

The establishment of a sovereign and viable Palestinian is a debt owed by the international community to the Palestinian People that is long-overdue. This right has awaited implementation for nearly seven decades. 
Palestinians are asking for international recognition of their State on the 1967 borders, including East Jerusalem, as stipulated in international resolutions. They also seek admission to the United Nations as a full member.
In UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 181 II- the resolution that provided the legal basis for Israel’s admission to the UN - the General Assembly instructed that “sympathetic consideration” be given to our application for membership in the UN. Thus, international recognition of the State of Palestine and its admission to the UN as a full-member is consistent with and supports a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 

Frequently Asked Questions:


 This is a natural, historical, and legal right for the Palestinian People. Statehood and its declaration is also a sovereign right of all nations, as stipulated in international law. Additionally, Palestinians’ right to self-determination has been repeatedly asserted by the UN. This includes UNGA resolutions 3236, 2649, and 65/455, which declared this right as “inalienable” and said that the Palestinian people have a right to a “sovereign and independent” state. UNGA Resolution 2672 declared that respecting Palestinians’ inalienable rights is an indispensable element in the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Moreover, in its 2004 Advisory Opinion, the International Court of Justice made clear that impeding the Palestinian people’s exercise of its right to self-determination is illegal.


Recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border is a sovereign decision of each state. Already 128 countries, including 9 of the ten most populous countries in the world recognize Palestine. Combined, these countries’ populations represent 75% of the world population. Additionally, recognition of the State of Palestine and support for its admission to the UN makes clear that Israel has no valid claim to any parts of the territory it occupied in 1967 and reaffirms that Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land is illegal. This is in line with UN Security Council Resolution 242, which affirmed the inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by force. Recognition of Palestine is a nonviolent action that supports the enforcement of international law, one that reaffirms the international community’s commitment to the two-state solution. It is an investment in peace.

The Palestinian people’s right to self-determination is a jus cogens norm that must be respected by states. The ICJ also recognized this right as a right erga omnes, which makes its realization and protection the concern of all states. This was affirmed in subsequent UNGA resolutions. Moreover, the UN has repeatedly recognized that Palestinians enjoy the human rights outlined by relevant Covenants and Declarations, which make up the body of International Human Rights Law. This includes the opportunity to “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development", as provided by Common Article 1 of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic and Social Rights.


Already, 128 countries recognize the State of Palestine and this number is growing every day. Most of these recognitions came after the PLO’s National Council (PNC) declared the independence of Palestine in 1988. At the time, the PLO made clear that this declaration did not affect or alter the legitimate rights of Palestinian refugees wherever they may be, including to return and to reparations, the status of Occupied East Jerusalem, or any other national right.

Additionally, Palestine is already a full member in regional and international bodies. Palestine is a full member in the Arab League and its representation in this body is of all Palestinians. Palestine is also a full member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Group of 77. In all these bodies, Palestine represents the rights and interests of the Palestinian people.

The UN is the world body representing the international community, in which the Palestinian people have been represented by their sole legitimate representative, the PLO, since 1974. There has never been a so-called division of representation of the Palestinian people in this world body. All segments of the Palestinian people – under occupation, in the refugee camps, and those living in exile are represented.

An affirmation of the already existing recognition of Palestine is in line with the PLO’s position and relevant UN resolutions. 


Palestinians have already declared independence. On 15 November 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s National Council, the highest representative body of the organization, declared Palestinian independence. This declaration was historic because it signalled the PLO’s endorsement of the two-state solution formula for the conflict, including relevant UN resolutions. Subsequently, the UN acknowledged the 1988 declaration and approximately 100 countries recognized Palestine.


The State of Palestine has met all prerequisites to statehood listed in the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the rights and duties of states. The permanent population of our land is the Palestinian people; its right to self-determination has been repeatedly recognized by the UN and by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Our territory is recognized as the lands framed by the 1967 border, though it is occupied by Israel. We have the capacity to enter into relations with other states and have embassies and missions in more than 100 countries.

The State of Palestine also fulfils the UN membership requirements of being a peace-loving nation, committed to the principles of the United Nations Charter, and able and willing to carry out charter obligations.

There are no other requirements for UN membership. In addition, a state can become a UN member even if it is under occupation.


Definitely. Two years ago, the Palestinian government announced a two-year state-building plan, which the international community endorsed and supported. This plan is now successfully completed. In April 2011, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and UN attested that Palestinian institutions are ready for statehood and agreed that the continued Israeli occupation is the sole remaining obstacle for Palestinian statehood. The IMF declared that Palestinians are able to perform as a “well-functioning state”. At the time, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad likened this recognition to a “birth certificate” of the Palestinian State.


While UN admission and recognition will not physically remove Israeli forces from Occupied Palestinian Territory, Palestinians believe this is a crucial step that will contribute to the inevitable end of occupation and the realization of Palestinian rights. It will realign the political process and discourse with international law and lay to rest any questions on the issue of Palestinian statehood.


No. International recognition and UN membership bring Palestinians closer to freedom by consecrating the two-state solution, which is the internationally-agreed formula for peace in the region. They strengthen the possibility of reaching a just and lasting peace based on the internationally endorsed terms of reference for resolving the conflict. They affirm respect for relevant UN resolutions, including Security Council Resolution 242.

This step is also consistent with the Arab Peace Initiative, which was also endorsed by the Organization of Islamic cooperation. The initiative promises recognition of Israel and normalized relations upon ending the occupation of Arab territories that began in 1967 and reaching an agreed upon solution to the issue of the right of return. By recognizing Palestine, the international community would be formalizing these terms of reference and protecting the two-state solution.


No. The Palestinian bid for international recognition and UN admission does not affect the standing of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian People. Additionally, it does not impact the organization’s ability to advance the legal rights of the Palestinian People. Palestine’s recognition by the UN does not and cannot in itself alter the PLO’s internal laws. 
Only the Palestinian people can legitimately determine how they will govern themselves. It is the choice of the Palestinian people and their leadership to maintain the PLO as their supreme governing body. They choose their destiny. Furthermore, the political structures of governance are determined freely by that people. This is The Palestinian people’s right and decision. That is why no initiative in the UN relating to the recognition of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and the State of Palestine can “terminate” the PLO. 

It should be noted that Palestinians maintained and preserved the status and role of the PLO when their legislative body, the Palestine National Council, declared the independence of Palestine in 1988 and established the PLO as the provisional government of Palestine.

The PLO Charter and the 1988 Declaration of Independence of Palestine safeguard both Palestinian national rights and the PLO’s role as the representative of the Palestinian people, whether inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including the nearly 2 million registered refugees in the OPT itself between the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip) or in the Diaspora.

Thus, though in 1988 and 1989, the PLO’s designation at the UN changed from “PLO” to “Palestine,” there was never any doubt that the PLO was the body that represents all Palestinians, wherever they may.

In addition, legislation of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) makes clear that the PNA is a subsidiary administrative authority of the PLO and receives its mandate from the PLO. Hence, The PNA cannot supersede the PLO as a representative of the State of Palestine. It cannot dissolve or alter the PLO just as it also cannot assume roles and functions not granted to it by the PLO.


Any claim that the UN initiative would in any way alter or abolish rights of refugees is unfounded. The right to self-determination, which is at the heart of Palestine’s UN bid, is one of the Palestinian people’s inalienable and national rights. Achieving one right does not cancel the other. The Palestinian right to return is an individual personal and collective right enshrined in numerous UN resolutions. Equally, the right to independence and self-determination is a national sovereign and inalienable right also enshrined in UN resolutions and international law. The same applies to all Palestinian national and human rights.

The refugee issue is a core issue, a final status issue, and a political issue that requires a just and comprehensive solution.

Recognition of the State of Palestine does not negate the rights, status or claims of the Palestine refugees. Additionally, recognition does not negate the requirement for a just and comprehensive solution to the refugee issue. It cannot. Reaching a just and durable solution based on international law and UN resolutions, particularly UN General Assembly Resolution 194 is a fundamental issue for the Palestinian people. It is also a priority issue regionally, concerning the countries neighboring Palestine that have been hosting Palestinian refugees for over six decades, in particular Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Finally, it is important to remind that throughout the over six decades of Palestinian displacement and dispersion, the UN and the international community have repeatedly reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people including their right to self-determination and the right of Palestinian refugees to return and reparations. These rights are reaffirmed in over 14 annual resolutions that the UN General Assembly adopts with overwhelming majority.


No. Recognizing the State of Palestine is consistent with the basis of the Declaration of Principles, including the principle of the two-state solution and relevant UN resolutions like 242 and 338. These terms of reference have been consistently undermined by Israel’s unilateral actions, including the continued illegal construction and expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.


On the contrary, going to the United Nations, which represents the voice of the world, is the ultimate expression of multilateralism. Palestine is asking the world to act collectively in the interest of peace.

In contrast, Israel has sought to change both the de jure and de facto status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory through illegal and unilateral actions, including the continued expansion of Israeli settlements and construction of the Wall. In fact, Since the Oslo Accords, the Israeli settler population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has increased twofold; from 236,000 in 1993 to over 500,000 today. Israel’s annexation of occupied East Jerusalem and the No Man’s Land and closure of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea are also unilateral measures which the international community considers illegal impediments to peace. 


No. Many countries which have already recognized the State of Palestine, like the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, maintain solid relations with Israel. Additionally, Palestinians recognized Israel in 1993. Regrettably, Israel has yet to reciprocate this recognition.

In contrast, there is international consensus that Israel’s belligerent policies of occupation are illegitimate. Palestinians also believe that Israel’s policies and practices for the past 44 years of its occupation constitute de facto annexation which is also illegal. 


Palestine believes that ending the conflict still requires the parties to reach a negotiated comprehensive peace agreement on all outstanding issues, including refugees, security, water, and others once there is a willing Israeli peace partner.

Negotiation is not a goal per se. However, it is the peaceful means that civilized nations, including Palestine employ to settle conflicts and disputes. Palestine has a principled commitment to reaching a final resolution of the conflict through peaceful means. 


The United Nations General Assembly’s Sixty-sixth session began in September. As such, September marked the beginning of a process for Palestine’s admission as a full member of the UN. However, there is no time limit on the membership application process. In some cases, admission of members took a matter of days. In others, this process lasted much longer. 


Palestine has many options, including repeating the application process as many times as necessary. This is in line with several precedents at the UN. In fact, many current UN members had to apply several times for UN membership before the Security Council finally approved their application. In some cases, like that of Japan, Ireland, Portugal, and Jordan, the applications of these states were repeatedly vetoed.

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