(Article changed on November 30, 2012 at 15:53)
(Article changed on November 30, 2012 at 13:44)
The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to recognize a Palestinian state.
There were 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions. Three countries -- Australia, Britain and Germany - did not take part in the vote to upgrade the Palestinian Authority's observer status at the United Nations to "non-member state" from "entity."
At least 17 European nations voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution, including Austria, France, Italy, Norway and Spain. Palestine Authority President Mahmood Abbas had focused his lobbying efforts on Europe, which supplies much of the aid the Palestinian Authority relies on. The Czech Republic joined the United States, Israel, Canada, Panama and tiny Pacific Island states likes Nauru, Palau and Micronesia in voting against the move.
A Palestinian flag was quickly unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly, behind the Palestinian delegation.
Tellingly, Thursday's vote came on the same day, Nov. 29, that the U.N. General Assembly in 1947 voted to recognize a partitioned state in Palestine, that was accepted by the Jews but rejected by the Palestinians.
The vote comes 10 days after a ceasefire ended the eight-day Israeli assault on Gaza which left 174 Palestinians dead. It ended only ended after Hamas and Israel agreed to an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire.
The much-anticipated vote came after Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas had told the General Assembly that it was "being asked today to issue the birth certificate of Palestine." He said the vote is the last chance to save the two-state solution.
"Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel," Abbas told the 193-nation assembly after receiving a standing ovation.
"We are here for a final serious attempt to achieve peace," Abbas said adding: "Not to end the negotiation process" rather to breathe new life into the negotiation process."
Abbas also said he "did not come here to de-legitimize a state established years ago, that is Israel." However, he said that Israel's occupation "is becoming consistent with an apartheid system" that promotes "racial hatred and incitement". The window of opportunity is narrowing and time is running out."
He stressed that Palestinians will accept nothing less than an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital on all territories occupied in a 1967 war, and a settlement to the issue of millions of Palestinians who have refugee status.
The United States, which voted against the resolution, immediately criticized the 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 Rodham Clinton called the vote "unfortunate" and "counterproductive."