Advertisement Close

White House Spins its Indefensible Veto to Palestinian Full UN Membership

posted on: Apr 24, 2024

By: Ghassan Rubeiz / Arab America Contributing Writer

The world expresses a sigh of relief that Iran and Israel did not go all the way to start a regional war. Iranian American analyst, Trita Parsi, has captured the scene: Israel and Iran have been embroiled in a shadow war for more than a decade, but they had never been this close to an all-out war.

Recent developments between Iran and Israel diverted world attention from Gaza. In a matter of days, Iran’s rocket barrage, and drone and missile attacks transformed Israel from an isolated and demoralized state into a most favored country in the eyes of western powers. The US House of Representatives has approved a massive financial aid package. The 26 billion dollar aid package designated no money for a victimized UNRWA, the United Nations agency which has served millions of Palestinian refugees for over seven decades. UNRWA is the oldest and largest humanitarian aid agency of the Palestinian community.  Such agencies are critical for state building. The US veto of UN full membership status {currently Palestine has an “observer status”} for Palestinians at last week’s United Nations Security Council meeting was expected: Regrettablyfor the US administration, decision making for future Palestine is best done in Washington, not at the United Nations.  

The United Nations has been laying the foundations of a Palestinian state since 1947: the Palestine Partition Plan emerged through UNSC Resolution 181.  UNSC Resolution 242 affirmed the rights of Palestinians for statehood:  calling for the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the Territories occupied in the 1967 war

The destruction of Gaza is the latest and largest Israeli attempt to extinguish Palestinian statehood. The campaign to defund and delegitimize UNRWA fits in a long process pursued by Washington of eliminating the conditions of Palestinian state building. 

In vetoing the proposal for granting Palestinians UN full membership status, April 18, 2024, the US has demonstrated its support of Israel’s position. In that meeting, the US was the only country, out of fifteen, to veto Palestinian full membership in the UN.  

The White House put out a statement explaining its opposition to the UNSC Resolution. In the long winded statement, the following paragraph argues that the best way to establish a Palestinian state is to make a deal with Saudi Arabia enticing it to join the Abraham Accords: A central focus of US policy prior to the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks was to promote normalizations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and, as a critical element of a normalization package, generates tangible benefits in a political horizon for the Palestinian people. 

The White House wants us to believe that a Palestinian state can be established once Hamas is gone and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the country, accedes to the Abraham Accords. This is delusional Washington thinking. When three decades of peace- making efforts failed to bring Israel to consider withdrawing from the occupied territories, how could Bin Salman pressure Israel to accept Palestinian statehood? If Hamas were totally defeated, how would that strengthen Palestinian statehood? Irrespective of what one thinks of Hamas, this movement carries the largest burden of resistance to the occupation today.  According to recent polls, Hamas’s popularity among Palestinians has increased over the past six months, particularly in the West Bank. Poll shows sustained Palestinian support for Hamas despite mounting Gaza death toll | Middle East Eye

Now that Israel has annexed or controlled the majority of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, what would motivate Israel to abandon its widely spread illegal settlements and to withdraw from Gaza? Israeli West Bank settlers have become a virtual militia that is armed and funded by the government; they could become a serious threat to Israel’s sovereignty.

The US offers another excuse for thwarting Palestine’s UN application for full membership: that Palestinians need to reform politically to become eligible for statehood. An honest reading of history shows that the US has supported Israel’s efforts to keep the Palestinian community occupied and divided by strengthening Hamas and weakening the Palestinian Authority. Israel has continued for years to annex occupied land. It has criminalized Palestinian human rights organizations and mobilized the international community to punish the Palestinian’s most creative program of advocacy, the BDS  (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions ) movement. Israel has jailed and assassinated dozens of Palestine’s thinkers and political leaders. 

Israeli journalist, Haggai Matar, rightly argues that proper understanding of human history is necessary to establish durable peace: Any situation in which one national group controls another, denies the latter basic rights, takes its resources, and blocks any democratic or legal means to strive for equality and justice, will always generate resistance. This is not something that can be changed with bribes, “economic peace,” “conflict management,” or overwhelming firepower. (

Palestinians applied for full membership status in the United Nations out of desperation, after trying all other avenues to building statehood. That said, Palestinians must not give up mobilizing for freedom, equality and independence, be it through a two-state, one-state or a two-nation confederacy scenario. 

Rationalizing its April 18 veto, the US claimed that it is serious about its support of the two-state solution: The United States continues to strongly support a two-state solution. This vote does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood, but instead is an acknowledgement that it will only come from direct negotiations between the parties.

Palestinians have been seeking direct negotiations for decades, but the Netanyahu governments, for years, have been refusing them. “We do not have partners to negotiate with” is the standard Israel excuse for evading realistic solutions. Israel has been closing channels for dialogue by building illegal settlements and creating laws that have turned the state into apartheid. 

The White House statement portrays regional peace as a deal between the US, Israel and a selection of Arab states which are in search of military security and promotion of their huge investments abroad. But rushing for expanding the Abraham Accords to create a “political horizon” for Palestinians is likely to divide the Arab world into two rival camps: one pro western and the other anti western. It is likely to put Palestinians in a weaker position than they already are- without resistance, without popular leadership, without a democratic election and without a process of genuine political reforms. Moreover, a rush to expand the Abraham Accords is likely to leave several ongoing wars active, particularly in Lebanon and Yemen. Not to mention the growing tension between Iran and Israel. (

Without an inclusive view of regional peace, the Abraham Accords will remain divisive and destabilizing.

Despite the rhetoric -of support for a two-state solution- the US veto of Palestinian full membership status at the UN fits in a coordinated American- Israeli policy: maintaining Palestinians in a precarious position.

Ghassan Rubeiz is the former Middle East Secretary of the World Council of Churches. Earlier he taught psychology and social work in his country of birth, Lebanon, and later in the United States, where he currently lives. For the past twenty years, he has contributed to political commentary and delivered occasional public talks on subjects related to peace, justice, and interfaith. You can reach him at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab America. The reproduction of this article is permissible with proper credit to Arab America and the author.

Check out our Blog here!