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Spiritual Justice -Introduction to Middle East  >  Geography, Religions and Conflicts of the Middle East  >  History and Background to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Early Period to 638 AD  >  History and Background to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: From 638 AD  >  The Role of the United Nations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict  > Middle East Resources


The role of the United Nations in the Israeli - Palestinian conflict


The United Nations was launched in 1945 when representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco to draw up the UN Charter, which sets out the rights and obligations of Member States, and establishes the organisation's divisions (or organs, as they are also called) and procedures.  The purposes of the United Nations are to "maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to cooperate in solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems and in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in attaining these ends".

There are six main divisions (or organs) of the United Nations, being the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice and the Secretariat.  The UN also has affiliated to it, several programmes and funds, administered by agencies which have their own governing bodies and budgets, such as the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which assist in a range of areas of social and economic endeavours.

The General Assembly is the main deliberative organ of the United Nations.  It is composed of representatives of Member States, each of which has one vote.  Decisions on important issues require at least a two-thirds (66%) majority vote, while other decisions are made by a simple majority (i.e. 51% or higher).

Many people believe that the United Nations Charter has been somewhat ineffective in functioning as it was intended by its founders, due primarily to the competing national interests between the current five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, being Britain, China, France, the Soviet Union and the United States.  Each of the permanent members has veto power, which means that any one of them can refuse to vote on a significant resolution (which can be done in self-interest) resulting in the resolution not being passed.

Many people believe that the United Nations Security Council should be strengthened to provide a balanced representation for the real centers of political and economic power in the modern world, by including Germany and Japan, political and economic powers in their own rights, in the permanent membership.

Furthermore, it is held by some people that veto powers be removed, and that a strengthened UN Security Council should, to the best extent possible, have the primary role in resolving the Israeli - Palestinian conflict.  To this end, civilians can lobby and inform others in the community through letter-writing, rallies and other non-violent actions, and can lobby the United Nations, through its member states, and by joining activist organisations working on this issue - in order to address the following points.


  1. a viable state of Israel is established alongside a viable state of Palestine;
  2. the leaders of all Arab states are persuaded to recognise a legitimate state of Israel;
  3. the security of Israel against its hostile neighbours is specifically guaranteed;
  4. an international regime for the administration of Jerusalem is established;
  5. a lasting ceasefire is supported by all parties involved, including the United States and the European Union, predicated (or based) upon a comprehensive final political settlement plan; and
  6. an Implementation and Verification Group is established to monitor and verify the implementation of a ceasefire and to help resolve disputes on the ground;

then one of the major causes of instability in the Middle East, and thus, the threat of this instability to the rest of the world, will be reduced.

For detailed information on what to lobby people on, please see the excellent web-site of Foundations for Middle East Peace (FMEP).

Click here to go to FMEP    [www.fmep.org/analysis/ICG_release_plan_to_tackle_I-P_conflict.html]

To find a particular U.N. Security Council resolution, go to the United Nations web site, click on Main Bodies, then on Security Council, then on Documentation Centre, then on the year in which the resolution was passed.


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