General Assembly Overwhelmingly Adopts 19 Palestinian Resolutions

Israel Isolated, Backed By U.S. Most Times

Right of the Palestinian People to Self-Determination Cosponsored by 65 States

Powerful Message Sent by the International Community

The General Assembly of the United Nations, in its 51st session, adopted twenty-four resolutions related to the Question of Palestine and Situation in the Middle East. Of those resolutions, nineteen were Palestinian resolutions, two were on the Syrian Golan, one on the Middle East peace process and two on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

The package of resolutions adopted by the Assembly was based on the resolutions of the 50th session, with some important changes and an increase in the number of those resolutions. For example, the issue of Israeli settlements was dealt with in a new, separate resolution focusing specifically on this dangerous subject, and a resolution on the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources was also adopted.

The vote, in general, improved during this session as most of the time the resolutions were overwhelmingly adopted, with typically around 150 votes in favor and with only Israel voting against and the U.S. backing it most of the time, in one case joined by Micronesia and in another by Palau. Abstentions were few and basically were cast by the same handful of countries, including Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau. On some resolutions, the vote improved dramatically as a result of changes made following negotiations with certain groups, as was the case with the resolution on Palestine refugees' properties. The vote on this resolution changed from 98 in favor, 2 against and 48 abstentions last session to 152 in favor, 2 against and 6 abstentions.

The Palestinian resolutions reaffirmed all the basic positions of the General Assembly related to Palestine, including:

  • The inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination;
  • The need to solve the problem of the Palestine refugees in conformity with General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 1948;
  • The right of Palestinian refugees to their properties and their revenues;
  • The illegality of Israeli actions aimed at changing the status of Jerusalem;
  • The illegality of the Israeli settlements and actions by the illegal Israeli settlers;
  • The inalienable right of the Palestinian people over their natural resources and their right to claim restitution;
  • The applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem;
  • The need to put an end to the policies and practices of Israel which violate the human rights of the Palestinian people;
  • The importance of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the necessity for its continued work under the current circumstances.

The General Assembly also reaffirmed its strong support for the peace process and the agreements reached between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the representative of the Palestinian people and called for the implementation of those agreements. Further, it called for the increase and expeditious provision of assistance to the Palestinian people through official Palestinian institutions. The Assembly reaffirmed its support for the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices and the need to maintain their U.N. programs and their activities as well. It also reaffirmed the need for the implementation of all parts of the Palestinian program of the Department of Public Information.

The usual mechanism for the preparation of those resolutions was maintained as were the positive positions and support of various groups, especially the Arab Group, Organization of the Islamic Conference, Non-Aligned Movement, G77 and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

The positions expressed by the members of the European Union (EU) were also very positive and a fruitful working relationship was conducted during the Assembly. The voting of the members of the EU improved as they voted together in favor of most of the resolutions, while abstaining as a bloc only on three resolutions. Further, all members of the EU, except Germany, sponsored the resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. They were among the 65 states to sponsor that resolution.

Another important development was the change in the vote of the Russian Federation from abstention to a positive vote on most of the resolutions, the most important of which was the vote on self-determination. Regrettably, such a position was not taken by Norway, which maintained its abstention on that resolution.

The important and clear outcome of the work of the General Assembly during its 51st Session sends a powerful message to all parties concerned. The General Assembly does support the Middle East peace process and demands compliance with the agreements reached. It also continues to uphold the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the Question of Palestine and to uphold international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, while reiterating calls for Israeli respect for and compliance with the above-mentioned. The test will now be whether Israel will begin to show more respect to the international community by heeding the contents of the General Assembly resolutions.