Should The U.N. Grant Palestine Full Membership?

Jan 17, 2012
Originally published on January 21, 2012 9:20 am

Last September, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas requested full membership to the United Nations for a state of Palestine.

With negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders at a stalemate, is there another approach that could offer a diplomatic solution for peace?

President Abbas' request has yet to be decided upon, and it is almost certain to be turned down. But a group of Middle East experts debated that proposal in the latest Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, facing off on the motion "The U.N. Should Admit Palestine As A Full Member State."

Before the Oxford-style debate, moderated by ABC News' John Donvan, the audience at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts voted 37 percent in favor of the motion and 30 percent against the motion, with 33 percent undecided.

After the debate, 55 percent of the audience agreed that the U.N. should admit Palestine as a full member state, while 37 percent disagreed — making the side arguing for the motion the winners of the debate; 8 percent of the audience remained undecided.

Those debating:


Palestinian democracy activist Mustafa Barghouthi was a candidate for the presidency of the Palestinian National Authority in 2005, finishing second to Mahmoud Abbas. A medical doctor trained in the former Soviet Union and Jerusalem, he also received a degree in management from Stanford University as a Sloan Fellow. Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, Barghouthi is Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative, a movement that campaigns for political reforms.

Daniel Levy is co-director of the New America Foundation's Middle East Task Force and an editor for The Middle East Channel at He is a senior fellow at both The Century Foundation and the European Council on Foreign Relations. Levy was previously an official negotiator for the Israeli government in peace talks with the Palestinians under Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak. Levy served as the lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative. He is a board member of the New Israel Fund and a founder of J Street.


Dore Gold is the best-selling author of several books on the Middle East, including The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City. As an Israeli diplomat, he served as the foreign policy adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later as ambassador to the United Nations. Gold has considerable experience negotiating with world leaders. He also served as a special envoy to the leaders of Arab states.

Aaron David Miller is a public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He is the author of The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace; and a forthcoming book, Can America Have Another Great President? For the past two decades, he served at the Department of State as an adviser to Republican and Democratic secretaries of state, where he helped formulate U.S. policy on the Middle East and the Arab-Israel peace process, most recently as the senior adviser for Arab-Israeli negotiations.

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