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U.N. vote recognizes state of Palestine; U.S. objects

  • The results of a draft resolution on Palestinian status are posted during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly after a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state in the United Nations headquarters, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    The results of a draft resolution on Palestinian status are posted during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly after a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state in the United Nations headquarters, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • Members of the Palestinian delegation and others join Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by applauding during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly after a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state passed in the United Nations in New York, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012.   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.   (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    Members of the Palestinian delegation and others join Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by applauding during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly after a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state passed in the United Nations in New York, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. 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. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • in United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. In a statement Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appealed to all nations to vote in favor of the Palestinians "as an investment in peace."  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

    in United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. In a statement Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appealed to all nations to vote in favor of the Palestinians "as an investment in peace." (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Seen through a Palestinian flag, people rally in support of the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West Bank city of Nablus,  Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition.(AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

    Seen through a Palestinian flag, people rally in support of the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West Bank city of Nablus, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition.(AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

  • Palestinians and Israeli soldiers stand outside a mosque damaged by fire in the village of Lubban Asharqiya near the West Bank city of Nablus, Tuesday May 4, 2010. Fire damaged the mosque on Tuesday, burning holy books and prayer carpets. Israeli military liaison officers and Palestinian police were in the village investigating. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

    Palestinians and Israeli soldiers stand outside a mosque damaged by fire in the village of Lubban Asharqiya near the West Bank city of Nablus, Tuesday May 4, 2010. Fire damaged the mosque on Tuesday, burning holy books and prayer carpets. Israeli military liaison officers and Palestinian police were in the village investigating. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

  • People wave Palestinian flags during a rally supporting the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

    People wave Palestinian flags during a rally supporting the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

  • Turklish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu embraces Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly after a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state passed in the United Nations in New York, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    Turklish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu embraces Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly after a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state passed in the United Nations in New York, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas acknowledges applause before he addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. In a statement Thursday, Abbas appealed to all nations to vote in favor of the Palestinians "as an investment in peace.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas acknowledges applause before he addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. In a statement Thursday, Abbas appealed to all nations to vote in favor of the Palestinians "as an investment in peace. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

    Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman gestures as he embraces the United States Ambassador Susan Rice after speaking during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly prior to a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state in the United Nations headquarters, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman gestures as he embraces the United States Ambassador Susan Rice after speaking during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly prior to a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state in the United Nations headquarters, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • A Palestinian youth plays with fireworks while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, before the body votes on a resolution to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority to a nonmember observer state, in the West Bank city of Nablus, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition.(AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

    A Palestinian youth plays with fireworks while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, before the body votes on a resolution to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority to a nonmember observer state, in the West Bank city of Nablus, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition.(AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

  • A girl with the Palestinian flag painted  on her face attends a rally supporting the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

    A girl with the Palestinian flag painted on her face attends a rally supporting the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

  • The results of a draft resolution on Palestinian status are posted during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly after a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state in the United Nations headquarters, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
  • Members of the Palestinian delegation and others join Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by applauding during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly after a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state passed in the United Nations in New York, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012.   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.   (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
  • in United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. In a statement Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appealed to all nations to vote in favor of the Palestinians "as an investment in peace."  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
  • Seen through a Palestinian flag, people rally in support of the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West Bank city of Nablus,  Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition.(AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
  • Palestinians and Israeli soldiers stand outside a mosque damaged by fire in the village of Lubban Asharqiya near the West Bank city of Nablus, Tuesday May 4, 2010. Fire damaged the mosque on Tuesday, burning holy books and prayer carpets. Israeli military liaison officers and Palestinian police were in the village investigating. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
  • People wave Palestinian flags during a rally supporting the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
  • Turklish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu embraces Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly after a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state passed in the United Nations in New York, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas acknowledges applause before he addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. In a statement Thursday, Abbas appealed to all nations to vote in favor of the Palestinians "as an investment in peace.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
  • Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
  • Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman gestures as he embraces the United States Ambassador Susan Rice after speaking during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly prior to a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state in the United Nations headquarters, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
  • A Palestinian youth plays with fireworks while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, before the body votes on a resolution to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority to a nonmember observer state, in the West Bank city of Nablus, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition.(AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
  • A girl with the Palestinian flag painted  on her face attends a rally supporting the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The United Nations voted overwhelmingly yesterday to recognize a Palestinian state, a long-sought victory for the Palestinians and an embarrassing diplomatic defeat for the United States.

The resolution upgrading the Palestinians’ status to a nonmember observer state at the U.N. was approved by a vote of 138-9, with 41 abstentions, in the 193-member world body.

A Palestinian flag was quickly unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly, behind the Palestinian delegation. In the West Bank city of Ramallah, hundreds crowded into the main square waved Palestinian flags and chanted “God is great.” Others who had watched the vote on outdoor screens and television sets hugged, honked and set off fireworks before dancing in the streets.

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. “Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path peace,” U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote “unfortunate” and “counterproductive.”

The United States and Israel voted against recognition, joined by Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the General Assembly shortly before the vote “defamatory and venomous,” saying it was “full of mendacious propaganda” against Israel. Netanyahu called the vote meaningless.

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 U.N. move violated past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians and that Israel would act accordingly, without elaborating what steps it might take.

Yesterday’s vote came 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.

Just before yesterday’s 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.

The vote had been certain to succeed, with most member states sympathetic to the Palestinians. Several key countries, including France, this week announced they would support the move to elevate the Palestinians from the status of U.N. observer to nonmember observer state.

Unlike the more powerful U.N. Security Council, there are no vetoes in the General Assembly, and the resolution to raise the Palestinian status only required a majority vote for approval.

The vote grants 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 Netanyahu opposed to a pullback to the 1967 lines, this should strengthen Abbas’s hand if peace talks resume.

The overwhelming vote 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.

Israel has stepped back from initial threats of harsh retaliation for the Palestinians seeking U.N. recognition, 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 now can 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.

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