The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution that recognised the Palestinian delegation as representatives of a ‘non-member state.’ The symbolic recognition came about as 138 UN member states voted in favour of the resolution, nine cast their votes against, while 41 countries abstained, including the UK. Europe appeared to be split on the issue as France and Italy voted for the resolution while Germany joined the UK in abstaining. Those who voted against the resolution included the United States, Canada and the Czech Republic.

Before the vote, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a speech to the assembly in which he insisted that the resolution was intended “to breathe new life into the negotiations” and said “We did not come here seeking to delegitimise 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.”  However, Abbas also used incendiary language, accusing Israel of “one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in modern history.”

Responding to Abbas, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor told the General Assembly “This resolution will not advance peace” as it violates previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.  He reiterated Israel’s eagerness to negotiate directly, saying “Israel has always extended its hand for peace and will always extend its hand for peace. When we faced an Arab leader who wanted peace, we made peace” before asking why “They [the Palestinians] have never been willing to accept what this very body recognized 65 years ago – Israel is the Jewish state.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the resolution will “not change anything on the ground. It will not further the establishment of a Palestinian state, but will make it more distant.”

Meanwhile the British Ambassador to the UN Mark Lyall Grant warned that the window for finding a two-state solution is closing, commenting, “We urge all parties, including Israel, to avoid taking steps that could damage the peace process.”

The United States representative Susan Rice called the resolution “unfortunate and counter-productive” and said that it “placed further obstacles on the path to peace.”