The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday recognized the Palestine state, after an overwhelming majority of member countries voted in favor of the resolution to give it a non-member observer state status.
More than two-third of the UN's 193 member countries approved the resolution of upgrading Palestine authority's status from "observer" to "non-member observer state". The resolution was passed 138-9 with a handful of countries including Israel and United States opposing the move. Forty one countries including Germany and UK abstained from voting and three members did not participate in the voting, Reuters reported.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared the moment as historical and called on the UN to grant the long overdue "birth certificate" to Palestine in his speech. The overwhelming international support is a big boost to Abbas and Palestine Authority but a setback to Israel and US, which had threatened to block funds to the West Bank administration, if they decide to seek UN recognition.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote "unfortunate and counterproductive," while the Vatican, which now shares the same status as a non member observer with Palestine, praised the move and called for an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem, as reported by Reuters.
Palestinians celebrated the victory by unfurling flags and with fireworks in West Bank and Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinians thronged the streets after watching the voting and the declaration on television and outdoor screens. "God is great "chanting were heard everywhere as jubilant citizens hugged and greeted each other in merry, Associated Press reported.
The Palestinian flag was unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly behind the Palestine delegation soon after the final tally was displayed in an electronic screen. Palestinians had lobbied hard for UN recognition and eventually garnered support from several European countries like France, Italy, Spain and Sweden.
Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama voted against the resolution along with the US and Israel.
Though the resolution passed is a victory for the Palestinians, the change in status won't guarantee freedom or peace in the region until negotiations with Israel reach an acceptable settlement.
"Today's unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path of peace," U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said. "Today's grand pronouncements will soon fade and the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded," AP reported.
Irked by the Palestine attempt to seek UN recognitions, Israel said that the move will further delay the negotiations.
"The resolution in the U.N. today won't change anything on the ground," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "It won't advance the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rather, put it further off," he added.
Israel and the US are particularly worried that Palestine, with its newly acquired status, can now join the UN's International Criminal Court, which would spell trouble for Israel. If Palestine succeeds in joining the ICC, it can drag Israel to the international court for alleged war crimes and human right violations.
However, the Palestinians have a long way to go before the Palestine state is established. Palestine has two competing administrations and it virtually has no control over its airspace and border. The militant group Hamas controls the Gaza strip while the Abbas-led Palestine authority rules over the West bank.
The negotiations based on the two-state solution have entered a stale mate with increased tensions between the Hamas and Israel over continued cross border-shelling. The voting marks the 65 anniversary of the UN's 1947 resolution, which is to divide Palestine in to two states - one for Arabs and another for Jews. Palestinians refused to accept the division of the state while Israel accepted the plan and joined UN as a state.