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.
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.''
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, speaks to the United Nations General Assembly before the body votes on a resolution to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority to a nonmember observer state November 29, 2012.(AFP Photo / Henny Ray Abrams)
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.
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.”