Skip to main content


   •  SHARE

Palestinian UN Vote Fraught with Global Implications

JINSA Report #: 

June 13, 2011

For more than 60 years, the United Nations has worked mightily to prevent the Arabs from paying the price of their rejection of the independence of Israel in 1948 and to stoke the fires of Palestinian irredentism: denying resettlement to Arabs who fled the Arab war against Israel; five separate UN committees dealing with "Palestine"; reliably large majorities of the General Assembly and Human Rights Commission regularly castigate Israel (including an inexplicable series of resolutions demanding that Gaza residents be removed from newly built apartments in Gaza and returned to UN-administered camps so that they look like refugees); denying Israel a seat in its regional bloc and its opportunity to serve on the Security Council.

All of this was possible for two reasons: None of it affected any of the other countries - although it did certainly warp the Palestinians; and the Security Council could be relied upon to nix the greatest of the excesses through a U.S. veto.

The Palestinian push for UN recognition of an independent State of Palestine through the General Assembly, however, may have been a bridge too far. Assembly President Joseph Deiss has reminded anyone who will listen that the Security Council must recommend new UN members, without a veto from any permanent member. Currently, the United States is blocking recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which seceded with Russian military assistance from Georgia. Russia is blocking recognition of Kosovo.

Most of the countries of the world could have been relied upon to vote with the Palestinians, but it suddenly became clear that bending the particular rule that requires the Security Council to send the motion for any country's independence to the General Assembly might work against them as they face secessionist movements of their own. And they do.

There are 37 recognized and recognizable secessionist movements in Africa. There are 65 in Asia, including 13 in Burma, five in China (Uighurs, Tibetans and Mongolians among them). Russia straddles continents and faces five secessionist movements in Asian Russia and 13 more in European Russia, including Chechens. The rest of Europe has more than 50, including 18 in Italy and nine in Spain. France has four irredentist movements, four secessionist movements, five autonomist movements and several movements to change the borders of Departments. There is one each in Poland, the Netherlands, Romania and Switzerland. Parties in Greenland want to secede from Denmark and in Puerto Rico they want to secede from the United States - which also has American Indian, Southern and Texan movements to secede, as well as one in Manhattan and one in New York State. The Miskito Indians want to secede from Nicaragua and Chiapas from Mexico. French and British colonies in the Caribbean and Oceana have separatist movements.

Not all are violent, of course, and certainly not all seek the destruction of the host country. But all want a political arrangement - mainly independence - that acknowledges their distinct nature.

But since all these movements have been ongoing, why suddenly is there concern that allowing Palestine to emerge through the General Assembly - using a not-legal mechanism - will impact upon them? Maybe countries are unwilling to bet their own borders on the United States providing the necessary veto on Israel's behalf in the Security Council.

They may be right.

Jewish Institute for National Security of America
1101 14th Street, NW, Suite 1030

Washington, D.C. 20005

(202) 667-3900 Office •