The UN General Assembly granted Palestine non-member observer state status on Thursday, arguably recognizing them as a country. The vote was taken at a meeting of the global body in New York on Thursday.
Thousands of Palestinians gathered in the West Bank and Gaza to celebrate, demonstrating their support for the successful attempt by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to secure the upgraded status, reports Al Jazeera.
Abbas addressed the General Assembly ahead of the vote for Palestine’s upgraded status, referencing Gaza and saying that Palestine is coming to the UN at a time when they are “still tending to [their] wounds and still burying [their] beloved martyrs of children, women and men who have fallen victim to the latest Israeli aggression.”
Abbas added that the bid for upgraded status is not a way for the group to “delegitimise” Israel, but instead to affirm the legitimacy of Palestine as a state. He stated that the recognition of an upgraded status in the UN is the beginning of “a final serious attempt to achieve peace.”
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, also addressed the General Assembly before the vote, saying that his country is “prepared to live in peace with a Palestinian state,” but that the country’s concerns about its security need to be part of the dialogue. He added:
“For as long as President Abbas prefers symbolism over reality, as long as he prefers to travel to New York for UN resolutions rather than travel to Jerusalem for dialogue, any hope of peace will be out of reach.”
CNN notes that the vote for Palestine’s upgraded UN status was 138 delegates for, nine against, and 41 who abstained, including Germany. The US and Israel have long been against giving the Palestinians statehood, unless it is a bi-lateral agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN, stated that American leaders will not support any measure that circumvents direct talks between the two groups. She also cautioned that Thursday’s vote does “not establish Palestine as a state.”
Palestinian leaders have said that they had the right to go to the UN after Israel failed to comply with agreements that were signed more than 20 years ago. Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erakat stated in September:
“It’s about a contract. Our contract is that in five years, we should have concluded the treaty of peace and all core issues. This did not happen, and we’re talking about 20 years later. And going to the U.N. is not a unilateral step.”
Erakat also stated that the new status will eliminate Israel’s justifications for building settlements in the disputed areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disagreed with the sentiment, saying, “No decision by the U.N. can break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel.”