UNITED NATIONS – In a diplomatic setback for the United States and Israel, the 193-nation UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved on Thursday, November 29, the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine, issuing its long overdue "birth certificate."
"Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations 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 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.
There were 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions.
Three countries did not take part in the vote, held on the 65th anniversary of the adoption of UN resolution 181 that partitioned Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.
A Palestinian flag was unfurled in the General Assembly as the victory was pronounced.
The vote lifts the Palestinian Authority from an observer entity to a "non-member observer state" on a par with the Vatican.
The upgrade gives the Palestinians access to a range of UN agencies, including the International Criminal Court (ICC).
If the Palestinians were to join the ICC, they could file complaints with the court accusing Israel of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious crimes.
The much-anticipated vote came after Abbas denounced Israel from the U.N. podium for its "aggressive policies and the perpetration of war crimes".
The UN victory for the Palestinians was a diplomatic setback for the United States and Israel, which were joined by only a handful of countries in voting against the move.
Britain called on the United States to use its influence to help break the long impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote "unfortunate and counterproductive," while the Vatican praised the move and called for an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem, something bound to irritate Israel.
In Washington, a group of four Republican and Democratic senators announced legislation that would close the Palestinian office in Washington unless the Palestinians enter "meaningful negotiations" with Israel, and eliminate all US. assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it turns to the ICC.
"I fear the Palestinian Authority will now be able to use the United Nations as a political club against Israel," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the sponsors.
Despite Washington warnings, celebratory gunfire rang out over Ramallah’s Yasser Arafat Square on Thursday as thousands of Palestinians cheered the vote result.
“The (latest) war on Gaza showed all the factions need to provide a united platform, as no faction can stand alone — whether it is armed resistance or diplomacy,” said PA spokeswoman Nour Odeh.
“This bid translates into diplomatic action.”
In the West Bank, crowds celebrated the vote by waving flags and chanting "God is great!"
"For the first time, there will be a state called Palestine, with the recognition of the entire world," Amir Hamdan was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.
"Today the world will hear our voice," he added.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said he hoped all sides would use the vote to push for new breakthroughs in the peace process.
"I hope there will be no punitive measures," Fayyad told Reuters in Washington, where he was attending a conference.
"I hope that some reason will prevail and the opportunity will be taken to take advantage of what happened today in favor of getting a political process moving," he said.
Britain's UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, told reporters it was time for recently re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama to make a new push for peace.
"We believe the window for the two-state solution is closing," he said.
"That is why we are encouraging the United States and other key international actors to grasp this opportunity and use the next 12 months as a way to really break through this impasse."
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