Palestinians win upgraded UN status by wide margin


There was applause as the result of the vote was confirmed

The UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to recognise Palestine as a non-member observer state - a move strongly opposed by Israel and the US.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said this was the "last chance to save the two-state solution" with Israel.

Israel's UN envoy said the bid pushed the peace process "backwards", while the US said the move was "unfortunate".

The Palestinians can now take part in UN debates and potentially join bodies like the International Criminal Court.

The assembly voted 138-9 in favour, with 41 nations abstaining.

Hundreds of Palestinians celebrated on the streets of Ramallah, in the West Bank after the result was announced.

'Birth certificate'


The parties began in Yasser Arafat Square on Thursday morning - long before the voting.

Mr Abbas made his speech in New York just before 23:00 local time as crowds of people waving flags gathered around large screens carrying the live feed.

Fireworks erupted in Ramallah with the news of the vote. While Palestinians will see no changes on the ground with immediate effect, the symbolism is all-important.

There is also hope that access to UN bodies will bring new rights. A successful application for membership of the International Criminal Court could be used to accuse Israel of war crimes or make other legal claims against it.

"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," Mr Abbas said shortly before the vote in New York.

"The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine," he said.

But Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the vote "meaningless", and said that Mr Abbas' address in New York had not been "the words of a man who wants peace".

Opponents of the bid say a Palestinian state should emerge only out of bilateral negotiations, as set out in the 1993 Oslo peace accords under which the Palestinian Authority was established.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote "unfortunate and counter-productive", saying it put more obstacles on the path to peace.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also called for more talks, saying the resolution underscored the need to resume meaningful peace negotiations.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool said there were celebrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

The UK abstained from the vote, as did Germany. The Czech Republic, Canada, the Marshall Islands and Panama were among the nations voting with the US and Israel.

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.

Symbolic milestone

The Palestinians are seeking UN recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the lands Israel captured in 1967.

While the move is seen as a symbolic milestone in Palestinian ambitions for statehood, the "Yes" vote will also have a practical diplomatic effect, says the BBC's Barbara Plett, at the UN.

Israel's ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, says the only way to achieve peace is through negotiation

The Palestinians hope that access to UN bodies will bring new rights: A successful application for membership of the ICC could be used to accuse Israel of war crimes or make other legal claims against it.

"This is a whole new ball-game now. Israel will be dealing with a member of the international community, a state called Palestine with rights," senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi told the BBC.

"We will have access to international organisations and agencies and we will take it from there."

There had been lobbying by Israel and the US to try to delay the vote or change the text to obtain guarantees that no international legal action would be taken against Israel.

Last year, Mr Abbas asked the UN Security Council to admit the Palestinians as a member state, but that was opposed by the US.

How did key countries vote?

  • Voted for: France, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Turkey, China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria
  • Voted against: Israel, US, Canada
  • Abstained: UK, Germany, Australia, Colombia

Mr Abbas was much criticised by many Palestinians for remaining on the sidelines of the conflict earlier this month in Gaza and efforts to achieve a ceasefire with Israel.

His Fatah movement, based in the West Bank, is deeply split from the militant Hamas movement which governs Gaza.

Gaza's Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh said in a statement sent to the BBC that Hamas' "support for the UN bid is based on the 'rule of non-recognition of the occupier'... and the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland".


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Israel and the Palestinians


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  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Congratulations to Palestine! It's unfortunate that Israel and the US feel as though this is a counter productive move but then again, they're the bad guys in this situation so who cares what they think!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The UK abstained? Pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    About time that the General Assembly accorded Palestine recognition. Only the international community can create peace. The USA is compromised and Israel is in bad faith.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Tired and Bored of hearing about it. 41 years old. Had to watch every US President talk of peace with every leader of Israel and Palestine. How many peace missions have we had?

    They have no intention of peace, otherwise it would have been done by now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    what does it matter really?

    Both Palestine and Israel are as bad as each other, both are non-nations which seem to have disproportionate sway on global affairs, treasure and blood than their size should really allow.
    There will never be peace in that region until one swallows the other as that is what both extremes are willing to kill and die for-- stop meddling and let them get on with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    About time !

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Well its far too little far too late. I think Mahmoud Abbass is just looking for some legitmacy after Hamas' relative success in the recent conflict. Obviously the UN is a completely biased waste of space, an instrument of America and the powerful nations generally to exercise their control, levy support and apply restrictions on others. Any Arab, or muslim who respects this body is stupid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    1. Hoohum It is always satisfying when the people like hoohum publish such idiotic statements. What is even more satisfying is the overwhelming majority that this proposal won. It sends a clear message to Israel and the USA (and of course the mealy-mouthed UK who abstained) that the Palestinian people have an EQUAL right to be heard. Not exclusive, not greater, just *equal*.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    A step in the right direction.

    Maybe Israel will start to recognise UN resolutions. Oh silly me...

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.


  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I'm deeply embarrassed that my country abstained on this vote. But at least we didn't vote against it, as per the US. I see the Marshall Islands and Panama will be getting their share of US aid for the next year, too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Hurrah! I've always believed that Israel has a right to exist, free of terror and attacks - and so does Palestine, for exactly the same reasons.

    The 'peace process' has been a farce, partly because it isn't on a equal footing. It's been a state negotiating with a displaced people. This starts to change that, and is excellent news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Considering the Vatican with a population of ~1000 priests also has 'observer status' it seems fair enough that Gaza does too.

    ....and thats all I'll say. Frankly I wouldn't touch this part of the world with a 10 foot stick. Our abstention on the whole issue was a smart move.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Next their recognise the Taliban as a credible power to run a state.


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