U.N. Gives Palestinians 'State' Status

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Nearly 140 countries voted in the U.N. on Thursday to recognize the Palestinian territories as a "nonmember observer state" over the strenuous objections of Israel and the U.S., marking a milestone with potentially far-reaching consequences for the decades-old Arab-Israeli conflict.

The 138-9 vote, with 41 abstentions, came on the 65th anniversary of the assembly's resolution calling for the partition of British mandate Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

The new status, which is akin to the Vatican's own stature in the world body, marked a rare victory for the Fatah party's diplomatic path toward statehood after its rival Hamas's military strategy had taken the spotlight during the recent Gaza conflict.

Palestinians in the West Bank city of Ramallah, who were crowded around outdoor television screens during the vote in New York erupted into applause, whistles and hugs, as some people fired guns into the air and beeped car horns in celebration.

"We didn't come here seeking to delegitimize a state established years ago, and that is Israel; rather we came to affirm the legitimacy of the state that must now achieve its independence, and that is Palestine," Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, told the assembly to a standing ovation.

The immediate question was whether the vote spurs or further delays the resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians that Israel says are needed to finalize the status of the West Bank and Gaza territories.

While Mr. Abbas argued the vote would create the momentum to resume moribund talks, the U.S. and Israel denounced the vote as a "unilateral" move in the multilateral assembly.

"Today's unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles to peace," said U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice. "No resolution can create a state where none exists."

She added, "Palestinians will wake up tomorrow and find that little has changed saved the prospect of direct talks have receded."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the vote as an empty gesture that makes little difference for Palestinians, and makes peace prospects more remote.

"The decision at the U.N. today won't change a thing on the ground,'' he said prior to the vote. "Peace will be reached through agreements reached between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and not through declarations passed at the U.N.''
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