NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A controversial vote at the United Nations for Palestinian statehood passed overwhelmingly Thursday despite opposition from the United States and Israel.
The resolution that upgraded the Palestinians’ status to that of non-member observer state was approved by a more than two-thirds majority of the 193-member body, with 138 voting in favor, nine members voting no and 41 abstentions.
A Palestinian flag was quickly unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly, behind the Palestinian delegation.
Even before the vote recognizing Palestine as a state, there was rejoicing and celebrating in Arafat Square in Ramallah.
Palestinians erupted in wild cheers, hugging each other and honking car horns after the UN granted them, at last formally, what they have long yearned for — a state of their own.
At the UN General Assembly meeting Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made the case himself. Abbas said the vote is the last chance to save the two-state solution.
“The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine,” he said.
Real independence, however, remains an elusive dream until the Palestinians negotiate a peace deal with the Israelis, who warned that the General Assembly action will only delay a lasting solution.
Israel still controls the West Bank, east Jerusalem and access to Gaza, and it accused the Palestinians of bypassing negotiations with the campaign to upgrade their UN status.
The United States immediately criticized the historic vote.
“Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path of peace,” UN Ambassador Susan Rice said.
The United States had tried to stop the vote. President Barack Obama offered to mediate, but Abbas said no.
But of greater concern is that the increased status may give the Palestinians the ability to make trouble in the region by filing charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court, CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer reported.
If they do, they could lose American aid.
“What the Palestinians are saying…is we don’t want to negotiate with Israel; we want to ostracize Israel,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer. “We want to say there should be no Israel. It’s totally contradictory to the belief in two states.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the speech by Abbas to the General Assembly shortly before the vote “defamatory and venomous,” saying it was “full of mendacious propaganda” against Israel.
After the vote, Netanyahu said the UN move violated past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians and that Israel would act accordingly, without elaborating what steps it might take.
The decision won’t immediately change lives, yet many Palestinians savored the global recognition.
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