United Nations: Palestine overwhelmingly won a historic UN General Assembly vote which will upgrade its status to non-member observer state at the world body, a stinging diplomatic setback to the US and Israel which had strongly opposed the bid. (Agencies)
India was among the 138 nations in the 193-member body that voted in favour of the resolution, which accords Palestine recognition as observer state from its current entity status.
United States and Israel were among the nine countries that opposed the resolution while 41 countries abstained.
The Palestinians, led by their President Mahmoud Abbas, cheered exuberantly when the results of the voting were announced.
The delegation held up a Palestinian flag inside the General Assembly hall as members congratulated each other.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, Palestine's envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour said he hopes to soon see the Palestinian flag flying outside the UN building along with those of the other 193 nations once the opposition to their bid ended at the Security Council.
He said Palestine has always been ready to engage in negotiations to achieve lasting peace.
Addressing the General Assembly before the vote, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said his nation had come to the UN for the vote at a time when it was "still tending to its wounds" from the latest Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip.
The vote came on the same day that the UN observed the annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians.
Abbas said UN now had a "moral and historic duty" to "salvage the chances for peace" and "issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine" on an urgent basis.
The vote could enable Palestine to access bodies like the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which prosecutes people for genocide, war crimes and major human rights violations. Some nations like the UK have said Palestine could use access to the ICC to complain about Israel.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said "an important vote" has taken place in the General Assembly.
"Today's vote underscores the urgency of a resumption of meaningful negotiations. We must give new impetus to our collective efforts to ensure that an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine lives side by side with a secure State of Israel," Ban said in his remarks after the votes were cast.
The US termed the resolution as "unfortunate and counterproductive" and said lasting peace between Israel and Palestine can only be achieved through direct negotiations and not by pressing a "green voting button here in this hall."
"Today's unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it," US Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice in explanation of the vote.
She said the only way to establish a Palestinian state and resolve all permanent-status issues is through crucial, "if painful” work of direct negotiations between the parties.
"Passing any resolution (does not) create a state where none indeed exists or change the reality on the ground. The vote should not be misconstrued by any as constituting legibility for UN membership. It does not. This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state," she added.
Rice said the resolution will not do anything to change the lives of the Palestinian people.
"The United States calls upon both the parties to resume direct talks without preconditions on all the issues that divide them," Rice said.
"Long after the votes have been cast, long after the speeches have been forgotten, it is the Palestinians and the Israelis who must still talk to each other—and listen to each other—and find a way to live side by side in the land they share," she said.
The symbolic vote signified the huge international backing for Palestine and came as a stinging defeat for Israel and the US.
Israel's Permanent Representative to the UN Ron Prosor said Israel would not compromise on its security and the Palestinians must recognise the "Jewish State and they must be prepared to end the conflict with Israel once and for all.
"None of those vital interests appeared in the resolution," Prosor said adding that the only way to achieve peace was through agreements that had been reached by the parties and not through United Nations resolutions that had completely ignored Israel's vital security and national interests.
In his address to the Assembly before the vote, Prosor said the one-sided resolution did not advance peace, but pushed it backwards.
"No decision by the United Nations could break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel," he said adding that "There is only one route to Palestinian statehood. And that route does not run through this chamber in New York."
He said that that route ran through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Prosor blamed the Palestinians for turning Gaza into an "Iranian terror base", from which thousands of rockets had been fired into Israeli cities.
He said while Israel's Prime Minister Benjanim Netanyahu has extended his hand in peace to Abbas, he has never heard from the Palestinian people "use the phrase ‘two States for two peoples."
"I have never heard you say that phrase because the Palestinian leadership has never recognised that Israel is the nation-State of the Jewish people," he said, adding, "President Abbas, instead of revising history, it is time that you started making history by making peace with Israel."
"There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No instant solutions," he said, adding, "Peace cannot be imposed from the outside."
Abbas said the recent Israeli aggression in Gaza strip had confirmed the urgent and pressing need to end the Israeli occupation and for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence.
Over the last months, the world had heard the "incessant flood" of Israeli threats to Palestine's peaceful, political and diplomatic endeavour to acquire non-Member Observer status in the United Nations.
Some of those threats had been carried out in a "horrific and barbaric manner" in the Gaza Strip just days ago, Abbas said.
"The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly: 'Enough of aggression, settlements and occupation,'" he said.
Abbas said Palestine does not intend to terminate the negotiation process, "which has lost its objectivity and credibility" but aims to try and breathe a new life into the negotiations.
"We will not give up, we will not tire, and our determination will not wane," he said adding that the Palestinian people would not relinquish their inalienable rights, as defined by United Nations resolutions, including the right to defend themselves against aggression and occupation.
"We will accept no less than the independence of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital", on all the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, he stressed.
He warned that "the window of opportunity is narrowing and time is quickly running out".
Prosor said the resolution would do nothing to advance the peace process.
"Today the Palestinians are turning their back on peace," he said.
"Don't let history record that today the UN helped them along on their march of folly."
"There's only one route to Palestinian statehood and that route does not run through this chamber in New York. That route runs through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah that will lead to a secure and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians," he added.
"There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No instant solutions."
The Israelis and Palestinians have yet to resume direct negotiations since talks stalled in September 2010, after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.
In the resolution, the Assembly also voiced the hope that the Security Council will "consider favourably" the application submitted in September 2011 by Palestine for full UN membership.
United Nations: Palestine overwhelmingly won a historic UN General Assembly vote which will upgrade its status to non-member observer state at the world body, a stinging diplomatic setback to the US and Israel which had strongly opposed the bid.