September 21, 2023 | Flash Brief

Abbas Calls for UN Recognition of Palestinian State

September 21, 2023 | Flash Brief

Abbas Calls for UN Recognition of Palestinian State

Latest Developments

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in a September 21 speech to the United Nations that the world body should recognize Palestine as the 194th member state. Abbas has led this initiative, also known as the Palestine 194 campaign, for over a decade. Abbas also issued baseless claims that Israel is digging under the al-Aqsa Mosque and may collapse the structure. Rumors that Israel is endangering al-Aqsa have frequently incited Muslim violence against Jews. Furthermore, Abbas touted a recent UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) decision to recognize an archeological site near Jericho as a “World Heritage Site in Palestine.” The Palestinian leader used the UNESCO decision to claim the existence of 10,000 years of Palestinian history.

Expert Analysis

“Mahmoud Abbas has been pursuing the ‘Palestine 194’ strategy for more than a decade. There is mild appeal for this strategy on the Palestinian street. But even if he gained international recognition, Abbas has failed to build the institutions necessary to sustain a state. Former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad understood this. Somehow, Abbas and his lieutenants ignore this simple principle: Functioning states require dependable systems and bureaucracies. The West Bank lacks them, and that’s before one begins to consider the fate of Hamas-controlled Gaza. The theater at the UN continues.” — Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

“Palestine 194 is a Band-Aid on the hemorrhaging wound of Abbas’ political legacy. It cannot erase the Palestinian strongman’s increasing authoritarianism, his overt antisemitism, or internal Palestinian fissures. Granting Abbas paper gains at the UN will increase the gap between reality and expectations, making the Palestinians even less likely to engage in peace negotiations with Israel.” — David May, FDD Research Manager and Senior Research Analyst

Palestine 194

Abbas’ Palestine 194 campaign has already achieved some success. UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member state in late 2011, becoming the first UN body to do so. Abbas continued on this path in November 2012, gaining non-member observer status at the UN General Assembly. The last meaningful negotiations with Israel, during which the Palestinians agreed to suspend their Palestine 194 campaign, ended in 2014, when Abbas decided to reconcile with the terrorist group Hamas. Palestinian leadership then began the process of acceding to or joining dozens of international conventions, treaties, and bodies.

Abbas’ Lack of Legitimacy

Abbas’ legitimacy is at an all-time low. He is still dealing with the fallout from the revelation that in an August speech, he blamed the Jews for the Holocaust and promoted conspiracy theories denying the Jewish connection to Israel. Abbas is currently on year 19 of his four-year presidential term, which began in 2005. Shortly after Abbas took office, the Palestinian Authority lost control of Gaza amid a civil war launched by Hamas. Indeed, in Gaza, the West Bank, and elsewhere where Palestinians live, his party’s strength has waned. And 30 years after the Oslo Accords, statehood still appears to be a mirage for the Palestinians. The Palestine 194 campaign helps distract from this reality, particularly for Abbas and his coterie.

Repercussions Per U.S. Law

A 1990 U.S. law requires a full cut in U.S. funding for any UN organization that accords full member state status to the Palestinians. A 1994 U.S. law extended this ban to affiliated organizations that grant this status to “any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.” The UNESCO admission of Palestine as a member state prompted the United States to cut its contributions to the body, which received 22 percent of its regular budget from Washington. However, Congress’ 2023 omnibus bill included a waiver, which expires in September 2025, that allows Washington to rejoin UNESCO. The Biden administration rejoined in July 2023.

Palestine 194 Distracts from Abbas’ Despotism,” by David May and Zachary Fesen

“‘Palestine 194’ Resumes, Signaling Palestinian Frustration,” by David May

The Return of ‘Palestine 194,’” by Jonathan Schanzer


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