UNITED NATIONS The United Nations voted overwhelmingly Thursday to recognize a Palestinian state, a long-sought victory for the Palestinians but an embarrassing diplomatic defeat for the United States.
The resolution upgrading the Palestinians’ status to a nonmember observer state at the United Nations was approved by a more than two-thirds majority of the 193-member world body — a vote of 138-9, with 41 abstentions.
A Palestinian flag was quickly unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly, behind the Palestinian delegation. Jubilant Palestinians who crowded around outdoor screens and television sets to watch the vote hugged, honked and set off fireworks in celebration.
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 U.N. status.
The United States immediately criticized the historic vote. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the vote “unfortunate” and “counterproductive.” U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to continue direct peace talks and said the vote did "not establish Palestine as a state."
Abbas had told the General Assembly that it was “being asked today to issue the birth certificate of Palestine.” Abbas said the vote is the last chance to save the two-state solution.
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.
Just before the vote, Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Ron Prosor, warned the General Assembly that “the Palestinians are turning their backs on peace” and that the U.N. can’t break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel.
Read more on this story in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.