United Nations upgrades Palestine’s status

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority (L) meets with United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (R)
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority (L) meets with United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (R) at the United Nations headquarters in New York (Photo ANDREW (GOMBERT/EPA)


By Colum Lynch

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelming Thursday to recognize Palestine as a “non-member observer state” at the United Nations, delivering a stinging defeat to American and Israeli efforts to block the Palestinian bid.

The 193-member U.N. body voted 138 to 9 in favor of a resolution that stops well short of conferring independence on the Palestinians, but grants their territory limited privileges as a state, including the right to join international treaty bodies. Forty-one countries abstained.

The vote for the resolution upgrading Palestine’s U.N. observer status from “entity” to “non-member observer state”was greeted by cheers and celebratory gunfire from Palestinians in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority government, but was strongly denounced in Washington and Jerusalem.

Addressing the General Assembly before the vote, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged the body to “issue the birth certificate of Palestine” — 65 years to the day after it adopted a resolution that he said “became the birth certificate for Israel.”

The resolution offers “the last chance to save the two-state solution,” Abbas said, referring to the vision of Israelis and Palestinians living peacefully in their own states side by side. He said the vote would “breathe new life” into the Middle East peace process.

“We did not come here to delegitimize a state established years ago, and that is Israel; rather we came to affirm the legitimacy of a state that must now achieve its independence, and that is Palestine,” Abbas said. But he also lashed out at Israeli for its offensive this month against the Gaza Strip, from which militant Palestinians have launched rockets at Israeli cities and towns.

“The Israeli aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip has confirmed once again the urgent and pressing need to end the Israeli occupation and for our people to gain their freedom and independence,” Abbas said. This situation “obligates the international community to shoulder its responsibilities,” he added.

The United States and Israel condemned the Palestinian statehood bid, saying it would complicate efforts to restart stalled Middle East peace talks.

“The decision at the U.N. today will change nothing on the ground,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insisting that only direct talks will confer true statehood on the Palestinians. “It will not advance the establishment of a Palestinian state; it will push it off.”

Speaking in Washington minutes after the vote, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the U.N. resolution “unfortunate and counterproductive.”

“We have been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace they both deserve: Two states for two peoples, with a sovereign, viable, and independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel,” she said.

The vote exposed deep divisions within Europe over Palestinian statehood, with France, Italy and Spain supporting the Palestinians, while Germany and Britain abstained. But they remained united in the need to restart Middle East peace talks as soon as possible.

Courtesy: The Washington Post