The UN Palestine Vote

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.

3 Responses to The UN Palestine Vote

  1. Vladimir November 29, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    The intensity of Canadian opposition is quite intriguing. This is the first time in recent Canadian history (the last 50 years) that we have a prime minister who is ideologically to the right of an American president and who is much more pro-Israeli (i.e . pro Likud). For people like PM Harper the UN as an institution has little credibility in large measure because of the way Israel gets treated there. I wonder if a country’s relationship with Israel can be a predictor of its relationship with the UN.

  2. sean November 30, 2012 at 2:16 am #

    Here’s a full tally of the vote, if you’re interested.

  3. Jeremy December 2, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    I was angry when I found out my country was among the few that voted NO. Canada simply shouldn’t have joined the US in its initiative to prevent Palestine from obtaining the non-member observer state status. We appreciate Jewish culture, the Jewish Film Festival was one of the most advertised events in Vancouver last month and there are many other opportunities to celebrate the Jewish traditions but it doesn’t mean we always have to take Israel’s side and the future of the Palestinian people should also be our preoccupation.