After winning the symbolic victory to fly the Palestinian flag at the United Nations in New York, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas called for the same to be done in Jerusalem, the “eternal capital” of the Palestinians.
On Thursday, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a motion allowing the flying of flags of non-member states with observer status. This allows the Palestinian flag to now be raised in front of UN buildings. It is interesting to note that the only other country benefiting from this new rule is the Vatican, which signed its first formal bilateral treaty recognizing Palestinian statehood in May. The Holy See has already announced that it will not exercise the privilege, asking that it not be named in the motion, despite Pope Francis being scheduled to address the General Assembly later this month.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican’s UN ambassador, told the assembly after the vote that “the Holy See has always respected the 70-year practice and tradition of the United Nations that there are only flags of member states that are flown at the United Nations.” But, he said, it didn’t object to the Palestinian proposal and respects the assembly’s decision.
119 countries supported the move while eight, including Israel, voted against it. 45 nations abstained. Canada, Australia, and the United States were among those few who voted against the motion. Despite not being recognized by the UN, 135 countries currently officially recognize the Palestinian State.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, praised the development.
“Of course we know that raising our flag will neither end the [Israeli] occupation nor solve the conflict immediately,” Mansour said. “But raising the flag will signal to our people everywhere … that their freedom is inevitable, and the international community supports them in their journey for justice.”
Abbas will be greeted by the PA flag on 30 September, when he addresses the UN General Assembly in New York. In an interview with the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abbas praised those who supported “truth and justice,” and stated, “The struggle will continue until the Palestinian flag flies over our eternal capital, occupied Jerusalem”.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, opposed raising the PA flag on the grounds that the Palestinians were “attempting to change longstanding protocols and traditions” of the UN. He was referring to the fact that the decision to raise the Palestinian flag at the UN Headquarters in Manhattan went against the previous UN protocol that did not allow the raising of flags belonging to non-member states.