What Palestinians Get Out of a U.N. Status Upgrade

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 28 2012 2:31 PM

What the Palestinians Will Get Out of a U.N. Status Upgrade

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Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations holds a press conference at the UN on November 27, 2012 in New York City

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

The U.N.'s General Assembly is expected to hand Palestinians an important diplomatic victory tomorrow by voting to upgrade their status from non-member observer "entity" to non-member observer "state."

That may not sound like much, but the move would put Palestine's standing roughly on par with the Vatican in the eyes of the global body. Palestinian leaders believe the upgrade will also bolster their hand in future negotiations with Israel, "not least by highlighting Israel’s growing international isolation," in the words of the Financial Times.

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As a non-member state, Palestine won't gain a U.N. seat or official recognition as a state—something that would take Security Council approval, which the United States has made very clear it'd use its veto to prevent. Still, the upgrade would give Palestinians access to U.N. organizations like UNESCO, UNICEF and the International Criminal Court.

It's that last one that seems to have Israel and its allies the most worried. They fear that Palestinian leaders will flood the court with formal complaints against Israel for what they allege are war crimes.

Palestinian officials expect at least 140 of the 193 U.N. member states to support the resolution—including heavyweights such as China, India, Russia and France—and say they hope to keep the votes against in the single digits. Israel and the United States are locks to vote against the move, but a third ally, Great Britain, suggested Wednesday that they'll likely abstain, according to the New York Times.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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