(photo credit: Shahar Azran)
Israel failed to realize until recently that the Palestinian bid to win United Nations General Assembly endorsement for statehood in September might not be merely declarative, but could have profound practical consequences under the provisions of a little-known UNGA resolution, Gabriela Shalev, the former Israeli ambassador to the UN, has told The Jerusalem Post.
UNGA Resolution 377, also known as the “Uniting for Peace” resolution, was passed during the Korean War in 1950, at the initiative of the US, because the Soviet Union was vetoing UN Security Council action to protect South Korea.
It permits the General Assembly to recommend a range of “collective measures” to supportive states, including sanctions and even the use of force, in cases where the permanent members of the Security Council cannot reach unanimity and where “there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.”
The existence of UNGA Resolution 377, and the precedents for its use, said Shalev, mean that “those who believe that the UN General Assembly’s deliberations are of a solely declarative importance are mistaken.”
If the Palestinians can gain General Assembly recognition for statehood under a “Uniting for Peace” resolution, she warned, “it would be a real obstacle… not just a public relations setback. This would seek to impose on us some kind of Palestinian state.”
Shalev said that Israel only “just found out about this” – thanks, she said, to research done by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi’s The Israel Project.
Palestinian officials have said repeatedly that they intend to seek UN recognition for “Palestine” by September. It is widely assumed that a resolution to that effect would not receive the binding approval of the 15- member Security Council – where it might not gain the nine “yes” votes it would need, and where, even if it did, the US would likely use its veto.
In the General Assembly, by contrast, a resolution recommending a state of Palestine would easily receive two-thirds support, diplomatic sources say.
But the assumption in Israel until recently was that while such a vote might further dent Israel’s international standing, it would have no practical consequences.
By invoking the non-binding “Uniting for Peace” resolution, however, the GA could then recommend that “collective measures” be taken by individual states in support of the statehood resolution.
Richard Schifter, a former US assistant secretary of state, noted a 1981 precedent in which the General Assembly utilized Resolution 377 to advance the struggle for Namibian independence.
That resolution called upon member states “to render increased and
sustained support and material, financial, military and other assistance
to the South West Africa People’s Organization to enable it to
intensify its struggle for the liberation of Namibia.” And it urged
member states to immediately cease “all dealings with South Africa in
order totally to isolate it politically, economically, militarily and
Its passage, said Schifter, who now chairs the board of directors of the
American Jewish International Relations Institute, “was a significant
step in the process of imposing sanctions on apartheid South Africa and
delegitimizing the country.”