Obama gets unusual boost from U.N.

United Nations General Assembly President Joseph Deiss(C) delivers his address September 23, 2010 during the 65th session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
United Nations General Assembly President Joseph Deiss addresses the United Nations in New York in this September 23, 2010 file photo.
Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama has objected to a Palestinian bid for a vote on a United Nations resolution to create a Palestinian state, which would require a two-thirds majority to pass. "Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state," Mr. Obama said May 19.

Now the leader of the General Assembly says such a vote should not happen until the initiative has first passed through the U.N. Security Council - where the United States has a veto.

The President of the General Assembly, Joseph Deiss of Switzerland, made clear at a press conference at U.N. headquarters in New York Friday that the larger General Assembly could not vote on Palestinian statehood without a recommendation first by the 15-nation Security Council, reports CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk.

"So the General Assembly cannot take the initiative, but we are ready to do our work as soon as a recommendation of the Security Council would be addressed," Deiss said.

Palestinian representatives at the U.N. have said they will have more than the required two-thirds majority to pass in the General Assembly. However, under the U.N. Charter, a membership bid has to go to the Security Council first.

Netanyahu aims to prevent U.N. vote on Palestine

Confirming earlier comments that the Palestinian leadership at the U.N. might wait to see if negotiations were back on track before moving forward on a bid for membership, President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, attending a Doha meeting of Arab states, said that Palestinians are not seeking to isolate Israel on the international stage, but will pursue their unilateral drive for U.N. recognition of statehood unless peace talks resume, Reuters reported.

The incoming leadership of the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council may have a different interpretation of the steps that Palestine may take in order to make their point about growing support for membership.

The Swiss President of the General Assembly turns the podium in September to Qatar's U.N. Ambassador Nasr Abdulaziz al-Nasser, after an election in June, and the Security Council will be chaired by Lebanon's Permanent Representative, a change that could lead the way to votes on more symbolic moves by the Palestinian leadership. Because the U.N. Charter is silent on the issue of "observer" entities, there have been some rumblings that Palestine would seek a vote to change its status from observer entity to observer state.

Supporters of Palestinian state could circumvent U.S. veto at U.N.

President Obama has been clear on the U.S. position. In his Middle East speech last week, he said, "Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state."

But the White House's efforts to get stalled peace talks back on track will be difficult. Middle East special envoy George Mitchell left the administration's team recently. And, during Mr. Obama's Europe trip, his effort to persuade U.S. allies - including British Prime Minister David Cameron - not to support the Palestinian efforts for statehood were inconclusive.

  • Pamela Falk

    Pamela Falk is CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst and an international lawyer, based at the United Nations.