Palestinians win UN recognition
The 193-nation UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution yesterday to upgrade the Palestinian Authority's observer status at the United Nations from "entity" to "non-member state," implicitly recognising a Palestinian state.
There were 138 votes in favour, nine against and 41 abstentions.
The vote, which sparked spontaneous celebrations in the West Bank, came despite threats by the US and Israel to punish the Palestinians by withholding funds for their government if it continued to push for statehood.
Earlier yesterday, President Mahmoud Abbas urged the UN to grant de facto recognition to a sovereign state of Palestine.
"Sixty-five years ago on this day, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel," Abbas told the 193-nation assembly after receiving a standing ovation.
"The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine," he said.
The move lifts the Palestinian Authority's UN observer status from "entity" to "non-member state", like the Vatican.
Israel, the US and a handful of other members were expected to vote against what they saw as a largely symbolic and counterproductive move by the Palestinians, which took place on the anniversary of the assembly's adoption of resolution 181 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman did not address the assembly. Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor spoke after Abbas, reiterating the Jewish state's desire for peace with Palestinians but opposing the resolution. "It doesn't enhance peace," he said.
"It pushes it backwards. No decision by the UN can break the 4000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel."
Granting Palestinians the title of "non-member observer state" falls short of full UN membership - something the Palestinians failed to achieve last year. But it would allow them access to the International Criminal Court and other international bodies should they choose to join them.
"The ICC issue is what the Israelis are really worried about," a UN official said.