The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly on Thursday did approve the recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine by a vote of 138-9 with 41 abstentions.
Now the Palestinians’ position at the UN changed from “permanent observer” to “non-member observer state”, a status also held by the Vatican, passed the General Assembly by a resounding 138 votes to 9, with 41 countries restraining from voting, including Britain.
According to The Telegraph, there were five nations who did not register a vote: US, Israel, Canada, Czech Republic, Palau, Panama, Nauru, Mirconesia and Marshall Islands.
Introducing the resolution, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, said approval would “issue a birth certificate for the state of Palestine”.
“Palestine has come to the United Nations because it believes in peace and because its people are in desperate need of peace,” said Abbas, who arrived in and departed the UN’s grand hall to a standing ovation from delegates.
“The international community is now the last chance to save the two-state solution. We did not come here to complicate the peace process. The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly: enough Israeli aggression, settlements and occupation,” he added.
The United States immediately criticized Tuesday’s vote, saying: “Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path peace.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Abbas’s speech to the General Assembly describing it as “defamatory and venomous,” and “full of mendacious propaganda” against Israel.
He also dismissed the importance of the historical vote, explaining: “This is a meaningless resolution that won’t change anything on the ground. No Palestinian state will arise without an arrangement ensuring the security of Israeli citizens.”
The Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor has previously claimed that granting Palestine non-member observer state status was “the wrong choice”.
He added: “Today the Palestinians are turning their back on peace. Do not let history record that today the UN helped them along on their march of folly.”
Ziad Abu Ein, deputy Palestinian minister for prisoners’ affairs, said: “People want to have their freedom, their own independent state and to live in peace with the Israeli state – not in peace with the Israeli army occupation.”
Wasef Erekat of Palestine Liberation Organisation said the vote represented more than a symbolic victory.
“We are using our rights to tell the world that we are not terrorists, as the Israelis used to say, but human beings who want to become members of the international community,” said Erekat, cousin of the Palestinian Authority’s negotiator, Saeb Erekat.
He went on, adding: “We are looking for full membership in future. We are moving in the right direction to becoming a Palestinian state.”
The Palestinians’ new status would allow the region to join the International Criminal Court, where they could try and accuse Israel of war crimes.
They can also turn to the International Court of Justice, which deals with territorial disputes, a key sticking point in negotiations. However, leaders revealed that they were not going to do anything to antagonise the Israelis unnecessarily.
Soon after the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice urged the sides to revive peace talks, Reuters reports.
“The Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded,” she said.
She added that both parties should “avoid any further provocative actions in the region, in New York or elsewhere.”