The UN Security Council has forwarded a Palestinian request to be recognised as a state in its own right to a special admissions committee, starting a review process that will probably take weeks, if not months.
The US has made clear that it will veto the Palestinian application – saying that the only way to statehood is through direct negotiations with Israel – and some European countries are also loath to have to take a public stand on the issue.
The admissions committee, comprising representatives from all 15 members of the Security Council, will meet on Friday.
Despite the hurdles, the Palestinians continued to voice optimism.
“As you see, the process is moving forward step by step, and we hope the Security Council will shoulder its responsibility and approve our application and send a recommendation to the general assembly for the admission of Palestine into the United Nations,” Riyadh Mansour, the Palestinian Authority’s envoy to the UN, told reporters on Wednesday.
But Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, said that a “viable” Palestinian state could be achieved only through direct negotiations and not by “imposing things from outside”.
“We are not against a Palestinian state,” he said. “The thing is how to get there. We should be talking with each other, not over each other.”
If the Security Council recommends Palestinian admission as a full member of the UN, the application will be presented to the 193-member general assembly, where two-thirds of members present and voting is needed for approval. The Palestinians are expected to win such a majority easily.
Last week, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, declared that 63 years of suffering was “enough, enough, enough”, as he lodged the application for statehood.
In his speech to the UN general assembly on Friday, Mr Abbas appealed to the Security Council to endorse an application the US has vowed to veto, insisting that it was time Palestinians exercised their “right to a normal life”.
Complicating the issue further, Israel on Tuesday said that it would move forward with a plan to build 1,100 homes in the Gilo settlement in occupied East Jerusalem, land that was occupied by Israeli after the 1967 war and which Palestinians say must be considered part of their future state.
Get alerts on Arab-Israel conflict when a new story is published