As widely predicted, the UN General Assembly has voted to grant the Palestinians non-member observer state status by an overwhelming majority, despite strong opposition from the Israeli and US governments.
The vote breaks down as follows: 139 in favour; 9 against; with 41 abstentions. Britain is one of the states that abstained, following on from William Hague’s disgraceful speech in advance of the Yes vote in the Commons, during which he echoed Israeli and US attempts to intimidate and bully the Palestinians into turning back from pursuing the attempt to have their right to sovereignty and statehood upheld by the UN.
Though the status won by the Palestinians is largely symbolic, it does allow them to participate in debates at the UN and opens the door to them accessing institutions such as the International Criminal Court, a particular cause of concern to Israel.
In the wake of the enhanced political capital enjoyed by Hamas due to its resistance to Israel’s recent assault on Gaza and the ceasefire agreement that followed, the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas and controlled by Fatah, will see the vote as a timely boost to its credibility with the Palestinian people, which many believe suffered considerable damage in consequence of its failure to intervene or demonstrate sufficient solidarity with Gaza during Israel’s military assault.
Before the vote took place, Abbas said in his speech to a General Assembly which greeted his appearance with a standing ovation:
“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. The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine.”
US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, described the vote as “unfortunate” and “counter productive.”
Meanwhile the office of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted the following response: “By going to the UN, the Palestinians have violated the agreements with Israel and Israel will act accordingly.”