The UN General Assembly has voted to upgrade Palestinians’ diplomatic status to a “non-member observer state,” thus implicitly recognizing a Palestinian state. This comes despite strong opposition from the US and Israel.
The Palestinian bid has been upheld with 138 votes in favor, 9 against and 41 abstentions.
Addressing the General Assembly on Thursday Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the historic vote was the last chance to save the two-state solution. He also told the meeting that it “is being asked today to issue the birth certificate of Palestine.”
In his speech Abbas mentioned Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza that took place this month and stressed that the Palestinians would accept “no less than the independence of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
The Israeli government has described Abbas’s speech, which was met with a standing ovation at the General Assembly, as “defamatory and venomous.”“The world watched a defamatory and venomous speech that was full of mendacious propaganda against the IDF (army) and the citizens of Israel,” the Israeli PM’s office said in a statement.
Israeli UN ambassador, Ron Prosor, warned the General Assembly that “the Palestinians are turning their backs on peace.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the parties to renew their commitment to negotiating a peace deal.
However the US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice said the UN’s vote on the Palestinians’ status places further obstacles in the path of peace. “Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade and the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little has changed,” she told the assembly with a somber voice. “This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state.”
The vote could be seen as an embarrassing defeat for Washington, which has always been a staunch ally of Israel.
UN move to upgrade Palestinians’ diplomatic status is a strong gesture of support to the Palestinians which could help end the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told RT.
“We think it’s very important to make sure that it can be used as a stepping stone for restarting the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
The international community is fed up with the conflict, he said. “Countries in the United Nations believe that dramatic steps need to be taken in order to have this conflict resolved.”
The Palestinian bid to join the global body as a full member state failed in 2011 due to lack of support at the UN Security Council. To get the “non-member observer state” status, the Palestinians only needed a simple majority at the 193-member General Assembly, such status is already held by the Vatican.
Among many other nations the Palestinian bid for an upgraded diplomatic status was backed by a number of EU states, including France, Spain, Denmark, Portugal and Austria.
The bid had overwhelming support from developing nations.
The nations who voted against the upgrade of Palestinian status were the United States, Israel, Canada, the Czech Republic and Panama. The notion of Palestinian statehood was also objected to by several Pacific island nations, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau.
The Palestine Liberation Organization, the umbrella group of various Palestinian factions, had previously had only “permanent observer” status at the UN.
The new status now grants the Palestinians more weight in peace talks with Israel and gives it a greater chance of joining UN agencies and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Joining the ICC would give the Palestinians greater legal basis for pursuing possible war-crimes prosecutions against the Israeli military.
However despite the support, the French Foreign Minister has warned Palestinians against pursuing Israel in the International Criminal Court, calling such a move “counter-productive.”
Following the announcement, Palestinians erupted in celebrations, hugging each other, waving flags and setting off fireworks. A crowd of at least 2,000 poured onto a square in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Joyful crowds also gathered in the isolated Gaza Strip, which was the scene of recent fighting between Palestinians and the Israeli Defense Force.
“It’s a great feeling to have a state, even if in name only,” a civil servant Mohammed Srour told AP in Ramallah. “The most beautiful dream of any man is to have an independent state, particularly for us Palestinians who have lived under occupation for a long time.”