The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday began debating a resolution to upgrade the Palestinians’ diplomatic status to "non-member observer state" as Israel threatened retaliation with financial penalties.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the U.N. General Assembly before a historic vote on Thursday that it “is being asked today to issue the birth certificate of Palestine.”
The Palestinians were certain to win U.N. recognition as a state, but Israel and the United States warned it could delay hopes of achieving an independent Palestinian state through peace talks with Israel.
Abbas said the vote is the last chance to save the two-state solution.
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.
Prosor said the only way to achieve peace is through agreements between the parties, not through the U.N.
A bid for Palestinian statehood
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- Palestinian worshippers clash with Israeli police in Jerusalem
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The General Assembly vote was certain to succeed, with most of the 193 member states sympathetic to the Palestinians. Several key countries, including France, recently announced they would support the move to elevate the Palestinians from the status of U.N. observer to nonmember observer state.
Jubilant Palestinians crowded around outdoor screens and television sets at home Thursday to watch the United Nations vote.
Palestinians say a successful vote will strengthen their hand in future talks with Israel, which has lambasted the recognition bid as an attempt to bypass such negotiations.
The vote would grant Abbas an overwhelming international endorsement for his key position: establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. With Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu opposed to a pullback to the 1967 lines, this should strengthen Abbas’ hand if peace talks resume.
The U.N. bid also could help Abbas restore some of his standing, which has been eroded by years of standstill in peace efforts. His rival, Hamas, deeply entrenched in Gaza, has seen its popularity rise after an Israeli offensive on targets linked to the Islamic militant group there earlier this month.
Thursday’s vote was coming on the same day, Nov. 29, that the U.N. General Assembly in 1947 voted to recognize a state in Palestine, with the jubilant revelers then Jews. The Palestinians rejected that partition plan, and decades of tension and violence have followed.
Israel has stepped back from initial threats of harsh retaliation for the Palestinians seeking U.N. recognition now, but government officials warned that Israel would respond to any Palestinian attempts to use the upgraded status to confront Israel in international bodies.
The Palestinians could gain access to U.N. agencies and international bodies, most significantly the International Criminal Court, which could become a springboard for going after Israel for alleged war crimes or its ongoing settlement building on war-won land.
However, in the run-up to the U.N. vote, Abbas signaled that he wants recognition to give him leverage in future talks with Israel, and not as a tool for confronting or delegitimizing Israel, as Israeli leaders have alleged.
Date created : 2012-11-29