This is about as a dramatic as it gets for a General Assembly here at the United Nations.
Interrupted by applause no fewer than 6 times, it’s pretty clear where the majority of the General Assembly stands on the question of Palestinian membership to the UN. Throughout the speech, Abbas claimed the moral high ground, “I don’t see how anyone with a shred of conscience can reject our full membership application,” he said.
The speech was a clear appeal to the world’s moral conscious. So what is next?
About 30 minutes prior to his speech, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Ban Ki Moon to personally deliver Palestine’s application for membership to the United Nations. At this point, Ban’s role is basically as a glorified postman. He must “certify” the letter, then pass it along to the Security Council. When that happens, it may take quite a long time before the Council actually acts on the application. This is partly because it is still unclear whether or not the Palestinians have the requisite nine affirmative votes to pass in the Security Council.
What is perhaps most interesting about the Palestinian move today was that Abbas also signaled his intention to seek “observer state” status at the UN General Assembly. This is something that can be acted on as soon as next week and only requires a simple majority vote. It is also part of French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s compromise between the United States and the Palestinians.
UPDATE: At 2:50 this afternoon, a spokesperson for the Secretary General said that Ban formally transmitted the Palestinian application to the Security Council. That was faster than I expected!