The UN Palestine Vote

by Erik Voeten on November 29, 2012 · 3 comments

in International Relations

It looks like the United Nations General Assembly is set to vote today on granting the Palestinian Authority the status of a “non-member observer state.” As the title suggest, this would not grant the Palestinians UN membership but it would be a symbolic endorsement of their status as a “state.” I did a couple of posts last year predicting UN votes on Palestine in the UN Security Council and UNESCO. I am a bit pressed for time this morning but here are some quick thoughts on today’s vote.

First, if this Reuter’s report about the vote intentions of European States is to be believed, Europeans will note vote identically to how they voted last year in UNESCO. Moreover, all of the movement is towards the Palestinian side. Of the 18 states mentioned, 7 express vote intentions differently from last year. 4 of these voted against last time and now plan to abstain (3) or vote in favor. The other 3 moved from an abstention to a yes vote. It is not entirely clear that this is due to a shift in preferences or a change in the nature of the issue. The UNESCO vote granted the Palestinians full membership. Yet, it does suggest that the Palestinians may get more than the 107 “yes” votes they got in UNESCO last year. In a vote that matters more for its symbolic rather than formal implications, this makes a difference.

Second, a country’s overall UN voting patterns is a better predictor of its voting intentions than its voting record on Palestinian issues. The methodology used for this assessment is discussed in this blog post from last year but the intuition is straightforward: the European Union (EU) has artificially forged identical stances on UN issues related to the Middle East. Yet, the moment controversial issues appear this consensus dissipates, leading to EU countries that will vote for (most) against (e.g. Czech Republic), and abstain (e.g. Netherlands). How EU countries split correlates strongly with other internal divisions over geopolitical issues.

I hope to have a bit more later this week or next week.

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