Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip celebrated into the early hours Friday morning after the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the Palestinian Authority's bid to upgrade its status to that of a non-member observer state.
Palestinians were especially cheered by the 138 U.N. members that voted in favor late Thursday. They said it added legitimacy to their claim for Palestinian statehood and added weight to their position in peace negotiations with Israel.
Nine countries, including Israel and the United States, opposed the resolution. Forty-one, including Britain and Germany, abstained but the bid was endorsed by a large number of European Union members.
Israel denounced the decision. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the vote as meaningless, while Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor said the new status will not advance peace.
Washington, which also opposed the measure, voiced similar concerns. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the U.N. decision hinders the prospects of reaching durable peace in Israel.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday's vote underscores the urgency to return to negotiations, and called on both sides to return to the table.
The Vatican also welcomed the decision, calling for “an internationally guaranteed special statute” for Jerusalem, a comment bound to annoy Israel.
The new status does not establish a Palestinian state, but many Palestinians say they hope the move will bring a resumption of peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.