U.S. Defends U.N. Voting ‘No’ on Palestinian Membership

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A White House spokesman on Friday defended the United States’ decision to oppose a U.N. resolution declaring support for Palestinian statehood, saying that such a measure should be negotiated in the Middle East.

The United States was among a handful of holdouts as the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution declaring that Palestinians qualify for full membership at the United Nations. The vote was widely seen as a rebuke of Israel and the United States as global outrage mounts over the Israel-Hamas war.

John F. Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, said President Biden remained “fully and firmly committed” to a Palestinian state, but the U.N. resolution was not the way to establish it.

“We continue to believe in the power and promise of a two-state solution, and an independent state for the Palestinian people,” Mr. Kirby told reporters. “We also believe that the best way to do that is through direct negotiations with the parties and not through a vote of the U.N. of this kind.”

Friday’s vote comes as the ties between the United States and Israel, its closest ally in the Middle East, are tested over the war in Gaza. More than 34,000 people have died in Gaza, including both combatants and civilians, and the director of the World Food Program has said that parts of the Gaza Strip are experiencing a “full-blown famine.”

The United States is the biggest supplier of weapons to Israel, and Mr. Biden is hoping to use that leverage to get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to forgo a long-threatened invasion of Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than one million Palestinians have taken refuge.

Mr. Biden has halted a shipment of bombs to Israel and said he would withhold artillery as well if Israel moved forward in Rafah. But the Israelis maintain they need to go into Rafah to finish destroying Hamas, which killed 1,200 people in the Oct. 7 terrorist attack it led on Israel.

The U.N. resolution does not establish a Palestinian state, but it does recognize Palestine to qualify for full-member status at the United Nations. Its membership will need to be approved by the U.N. Security Council, which includes the United States.

The United States has repeatedly wielded its veto power on the council to block U.N. resolutions calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

The U.N. General Assembly took up Friday’s resolution after the United States vetoed in April a resolution that came before the Security Council that would have recognized full membership for a Palestinian state, which is considered a “nonmember observer state.”

The resolution that passed on Friday would extend to Palestinians new privileges, such as sitting among member states in alphabetical order, speaking at meetings on any topic instead of being limited to Palestinian affairs, and submitting proposals and amendments.

The resolution was prepared by the United Arab Emirates, the current chair of the U.N. Arab Group, and sponsored by 70 countries. It declares that “the State of Palestine is qualified for membership in the United Nations” under its charter rules and recommends that the Security Council reconsider the matter with a favorable outcome.”

The resolution’s adoption prompted rousing applause.

Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting.

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