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Abbas wins UN 'birth certificate' for Palestine state

Published Nov 30, 2012 03:46am

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations before a UN General Assembly vote on upgrading the status of the Palestinians to non-member observer state on November 29, 2012 in New York City. — Photo by AFP

UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to make Palestine a non-member state, inflicting a major diplomatic defeat on the United States and Israel.

The victory for president Mahmud Abbas triggered scenes of joy in the occupied West Bank where thousands celebrated with bursts of gunfire and cheers in the city of Ramallah.

Abbas claimed what he called a UN “birth certificate” for a Palestinian state and got the backing of 138 countries in the 193 member assembly. Nine voted against and 41 abstained.

A Palestinian flag was unfurled in the General Assembly as the victory was pronounced. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned what he called a “venomous” speech by the Palestinian leader.

The vote lifts the Palestinian Authority from an observer entity to a “non-member observer state” on a par with the Vatican.

Palestine has no vote on the General Assembly but is able to join UN agencies and potentially the International Criminal Court (ICC), where it could ask for an investigation of Israeli actions.

The Palestinian leadership says it wants to use the vote as a launchpad for renewed direct talks with Israel, which have been frozen for more than two years.

Abbas told the assembly the resolution was “the last chance to save the two-state solution.”

In a 22-minute speech laced with references to Israel's operation against Gaza this month, Abbas said time for an accord is running out. “The rope of patience is shortening and hope is withering.” Afterwards, he said the vote had been “historic”.

“Tomorrow we begin the real war,” Abbas said at a celebration reception.

“We have a long road and difficult road ahead of us. I don't want to spoil our victory tonight but the road ahead is still difficult.”

The United States and Israel immediately condemned the vote, which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called “counterproductive.”

US ambassador Susan Rice sternly told the General Assembly that the resolution would be “an obstacle to peace” because it would not lead to a return to direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“Today's grand pronouncements will soon fade. And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded,” she said.

The United States blocked a Palestinian application for full UN membership — ¬¬ made by Abbas in September 2011 — at the UN Security Council.

Netanyahu slammed Abbas. “The world watched a defamatory and venomous speech that was full of mendacious propaganda,” his office said.

Israeli UN ambassador Ron Prosor said recognizing Palestine “will place further obstacles and preconditions to negotiations and peace” and could even lead to increased violence.

Abbas was warned earlier by UN leader Ban Ki-moon that the Middle East peace process is on “life support” and that both Netanyahu and Abbas must take action to revive talks.

The Palestinian leader did not make any reference to the possibility of joining the International Criminal Court — a major worry for Israel which fears a possible investigation.

But Abbas said: “We will act responsibly and positively in our next steps, and we will to work to strengthen cooperation with the countries and peoples of the world for the sake of a just peace.”

The vote could give a boost to Abbas who faces a mounting challenge from Hamas after the Israeli offensive on Gaza, diplomats said.

But Britain and Germany, which abstained, believe the Palestinians should have waited until after US President Barack Obama installed his new administration and Israel held elections before making its UN bid.

France voted for the resolution. “The Palestinian step comes at a difficult moment and there could be heavy repercussions,” said French ambassador Gerard Araud.

France called on both sides to respond through the resumption of talks “and not through reprisals which will only play the game of the extremists,” he added.

The Palestinians still face an uncertain future on the diplomatic stage.

Despite their greater access to the UN system, there are divided opinions over whether they will be able to automatically join the ICC.

Palestinian envoys have said Abbas will not rush to join the court but could use it as leverage if Israel does not change its policies on settlements and other matters.

The Palestinian Authority and UN agencies that accept Palestinian participation could also lose hundreds of millions of dollars in financing because of the vote.

Washington has warned Abbas he risks losing around $200 million in aid, which is blocked in the US Congress.

Comments (12) Closed

Majid Mirza
Nov 30, 2012 07:28am
Transition from non-member observer state towards an official recognition of the state of Palestine is yet to become a reality in political realm. UN has already failed to grapple with the recent atrocities committed by the recent Israeli aggression. How could one expect that by joining UN agencies and potentially the International Criminal Court (ICC), Palestine will be able to secure an assertive position where it could ask for an investigation of Israeli actions?
Nov 30, 2012 10:47am
i acme here to see what did pakistan mention of it
Arif Ayaz
Nov 30, 2012 06:50am
This brings tears into my eyes. Congratulations to our Palestinian brothers and sisters!
Nov 30, 2012 01:18pm
Yes Pakistan voted yes, how could we not? While we celebrate our independence from 1947, our brethren in Palestine commemorate their disaster from 1948.
Nov 30, 2012 04:41am
Congratulation to Mahmood abbas for a great Victory..Thanks to All those who supported the Resolution. Congrates to All Muslims...
Nov 30, 2012 04:35am
Congratulations! Allah may bless you. we the people of Pakistan support Palestine and their struggle .
Nov 30, 2012 04:32am
congratulations!. we the people of Pakistan support Palestine and their struggle
Farooq Razavi
Nov 30, 2012 07:46am
Dear Dawn, How did Pakistan vote hope it was a yes Palestine
Nov 30, 2012 10:49am
i came to see what was pakistan's vote . but no mention of it .
Nov 30, 2012 08:00am
Big things have humble beginnings
M. Asghar
Nov 30, 2012 10:05am
It is in the nature of things that the decisiveness for action has to face all sort of blackmailing.
Nov 30, 2012 05:35pm
In historic move UNO General Assembly overwhelming voted in favor of Philistine authority as a non observer state according to 1967 borders with Israel in UNO General Assembly. Now it seem true that like middle east Israel and its close friend United States are also going alone in other forums like UNO. After recent victory in Gaza recent victory in UNO General Assembly is also big won for Philistine people. Although three permanent of security council France, Russia, China and other countries voted in favor of Philistine bid for independent observer state in United Nations but Philistine authority recent move strongly opposed by US, Israel and its close allies. Israel fears that after getting status of Independent observer states philistine can challenge Israel

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