Palestinians win upgrade to 'state ' at UN. What does that change? (+video)
The UN General Assembly's 138-to-9 vote officially put 'Palestine' together with 'state' for the first time. But it appeared to offer little practical change. Even Palestinians called it part of a 'process.'
The Palestinian mission at the United Nations won an upgrade from an “entity” to a “state” – albeit one with nonvoting observer status – in a lopsided vote in the General Assembly Thursday.Skip to next paragraph
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The 138-to-9 vote, with 41 abstentions, put Palestinians front and center on the international stage for the second time in two weeks, following the recent fighting between Israel and the Palestinians of Hamas-ruled Gaza. The vote also, for the first time, officially puts “Palestine” together with the word “state,” giving Palestinians the same status at the UN held by the Vatican.
In a speech to the General Assembly in New York before the vote, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the status upgrade the “birth certificate of Palestine” and said it represented “the last chance to save the two-state solution” for the Palestinians and Israel.
The timing of the vote was suffused with historical significance, since it fell on the 65th anniversary of the General Assembly’s vote on Nov. 29, 1947, to partition British-ruled Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.
But the UN decision, opposed by Israel and the United States appeared to offer little immediate or practical change, with even Palestinian leaders emphasizing the promise of the status change.
The strong backing for enhanced Palestinian status, including from a large number of European countries, reflected a widespread desire to boost the fortunes of Mr. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority at a moment when the militant Hamas is enjoying newfound support, particularly among Arab countries. Supporters of the initiative said it would enhance chances for peace in the region.
But Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Proser, told the Assembly before the vote that the bid “doesn’t advance peace – it pushes it backwards” by circumventing negotiations between the parties.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the vote “changes nothing.”
“Peace can only be achieved one way,” he said, “through direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions, and not through one-sided decisions at the UN that totally ignore Israel’s vital security needs.”