UN vote gives recognition to Palestinian state

The 193-nation UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution last night to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the UN from “entity” to “non-member state”, implicitly recognising a Palestinian state.

There were 138 votes in favour, nine against and 41 abstentions.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton described the vote as “unfortunate and counterproductive”, and said it would make peace more difficult.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas had urged the assembly to grant Palestine its “birth certificate”.

“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. “The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine.”

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s strong critique of Israel in his speech at the UN yesterday as “hostile and poisonous”, and full of “false propaganda”.

“These are not the words of a man who wants peace,” Netanyahu also said in a statement released by his office after Abbas spoke at the General Assembly.

Israel, the US and a handful of other members voted against what they see as a largely symbolic and counterproductive move by the Palestinians, which takes place on the anniversary of the assembly’s adoption of resolution 181 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

Granting Palestinians the title of “non-member observer state” would allow them access to the International Criminal Court and other international bodies.

“The ICC issue is what the Israelis are really worried about,” a UN official said on condition of anonymity.

The US State Department has repeatedly warned that the UN status change could lead to a reduction of US economic support for the Palestinians. The Israelis have also warned they might take significant deductions out of monthly transfers of duties that Israel collects on the Palestinians’ behalf.

Concerned not to find itself diplomatically isolated, Israel has recently toned down threats of retaliation in the face of wide international support for the initiative, notably among its European allies.

But UN diplomats say Israel’s reaction might not be so measured if the Palestinians seek ICC action against Israel on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity or other crimes.

— Reuters

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