Open Zion

12.20.12

U.N. Adds New Name: "State of Palestine"

The United Nations bureaucracy now recognizes—at least in name—two "states" between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea. One, of course, is the long-since established State of Israel. The other, as of three days ago, is the State of Palestine. It happened quietly in an exchange of letters just within the past week. On Dec. 17, the U.N.'s head of official protocol wrote to the Palestinian delegation to Turtle Bay acceding to a request to, henceforth, be referred to as the representatives of the "State of Palestine." 

"It is gratifying, not only for me personally, but for the Palestinian people, to celebrate as a nation," the head of the Palestinian U.N. mission Riyad Mansour told me in an interview today. "It's not only a change of name, it's much more than that: now the United Nations is recognizing us as the State of Palestine." 

The protocol division's letter followed on the Nov. 29 vote to recognize Palestine as a "non-member observer state" at the U.N. Mansour said requests for changes in the official language were made following the vote. The reply came on Monday: "I refer to your letter of 12 December 2012 and have the honour to inform you that pursuant to your request, the designation of 'State of Palestine' shall be used by the Secretariat in all official United Nations documents," wrote the Chief of Protocol Yeocheol Yoon in a letter to Mansour obtained by Open Zion. The designation is on all the nameplates at the U.N. and will appear in activities related to the U.N., such as international conferences. That includes the Palestinian mission to Turtle Bay: Yoon's letter was addressed to "H.E. Mr. Riyad Mansour / Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations."

The Israeli mission to the U.N. did not immediately return a call for comment. (We'll update if we hear back.) Israel, which exercises military rule over the Palestinian territories, and 8 others, including the U.S., voted against the resolution to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state.

In twist unique to the Palestinians, the mission submitted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's name as the "Head of State of the State of Palestine" for official U.N. use because Abbas also serves as the head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The U.N. mission represents the PLO, not the PA, in New York. The Yoon letter noted Abbas's new status, and said the Protocol division awaited names of other government officials. PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad's name has not been submitted yet, Mansour told me. "The Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority is not exactly the prime minister of the State of Palestine," Mansour explained. "Fayyad doesn't have the title of the State of Palestine. If it is decided in the executive committee of the PLO, which is the acting government of the state of Palestine, then we will send his name."

Yoon's letter also noted the change to the "Blue Book"—the U.N. directory of missions. The version of the "Blue Book" online at press time doesn't yet give the latest version (for me, at least), but I'm told an updated version has been loaded into the system. That update will take Palestine out of section III—"Entities having received a standing invitation to participate as observers in the sessions"—and place it in section II along with the Vatican (Holy See) as a "non-member State having received a standing invitation to participate as observer."