Lecture Notes







































Palestine (in red) wants to be recognized as a sovereign country.

In 1967, Israel conquered a neighboring region called Palestine. Israel was thrilled to get this new land—but the problem is that Israel has never quite known what to do with the three million Palestinians who live on the land (and have lived there continuously for thousands of years).

Two choices seem eminently sensible:

The first is called the “one-state solution.” Israel could incorporate Palestine into Israel, and grant all the Palestinians citizenship in the state of Israel, with full equal rights. (That would be similar to the way that the United States dealt with the annexation of Hawaii). 

The second choice would be to essentially give the land back. This is called the “two-state solution.” Israel could allow the Palestinians to form an independent country that would live side-by-side with Israel. The exact border between the two countries would be determined—in fact, has been determined—by the United Nations.

Unfortunately, Israel chose a third, less-sensible option: It decided to place some three million Palestinians under military rule (called a military occupation), and to keep them under military rule for the last 50 years—all the while denying them equal rights or the right to rule over themselves.

Needless to say, the Palestinians have become increasingly frustrated with this prolonged military occupation. In 2011, Palestine applied for membership to the United Nations, arguing that it should be recognized as a fully independent state.

The idea that Palestine is independent is a myth—just as much of a myth as the idea that there is only one China. In reality, Palestine is tightly controlled by Israel. Nobody can go in or out of Palestine without Israel’s permission, and conditions in Gaza have deteriorated so badly that it has been called “the largest open-air prison in the world.”

Nonetheless, about 100 countries have recognized Palestine as an independent country, more as a show of respect than anything else. Most countries believe that Palestine deserves to be independent, and they want to help it along. But Israel, of course, refuses to recognize Palestine’s independence, and the United States—Israel’s longtime ally—blocked Palestine’s 2011 membership bid to the United Nations.

Unable to get full membership, in 2012 Palestine applied to become a “non-member observer state,” and the General Assembly approved the application. This means that Palestine can participate in General Assembly debates; however, it cannot vote.


Check Your Understanding

  1. What powerful country is blocking Palestine’s membership in the United Nations?
  2. Why is Israel opposed to Palestine’s membership in the United Nations?