Palestinians gain U.N. status as ‘observer state’

U.S. lawmakers work on penalties

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Homeland Security Committee, left, joins Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., right, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, to tell reporters they will push for a vote in Congress to kick the Palestinian Liberation Organization out of its Washington offices and withhold U.S. financial aid if the Palestinians seek to use an enhanced U.N. status against Israel. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Homeland Security Committee, left, joins Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., right, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, to tell reporters they will push for a vote in Congress to kick the Palestinian Liberation Organization out of its Washington offices and withhold U.S. financial aid if the Palestinians seek to use an enhanced U.N. status against Israel. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
  • U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, second from left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, second from right, prepare to start a meeting on Palestine, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. Palestinians are expected to win U.N. recognition as a state, even as the U.S., Israel's closest ally, mounts an aggressive campaign to head off the General Assembly vote.  (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, second from left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, second from right, prepare to start a meeting on Palestine, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. Palestinians are expected to win U.N. recognition as a state, even as the U.S., Israel's closest ally, mounts an aggressive campaign to head off the General Assembly vote. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
  • ** FILE ** Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press about the Palestinian bid to the U.N. during a visit to an exhibition marking 35 years since Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's visit to Israel at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Gali Tibbon, Pool)** FILE ** Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press about the Palestinian bid to the U.N. during a visit to an exhibition marking 35 years since Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's visit to Israel at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Gali Tibbon, Pool)
  • People march in support of the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West Bank town of Jenin, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)People march in support of the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West Bank town of Jenin, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, listens as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a meeting on Palestine, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. Palestinians are expected to win U.N. recognition as a state, even as the U.S., Israel's closest ally, mounts an aggressive campaign to head off the General Assembly vote.  (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, listens as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a meeting on Palestine, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. Palestinians are expected to win U.N. recognition as a state, even as the U.S., Israel's closest ally, mounts an aggressive campaign to head off the General Assembly vote. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
  • Israeli right wing activists demonstrate against the Palestinian U.N. bid for observer state status, in front of the U.N. headquarters in Jerusalem, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. Hebrew on sign reads: "Abu Mazen's workers." (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)Israeli right wing activists demonstrate against the Palestinian U.N. bid for observer state status, in front of the U.N. headquarters in Jerusalem, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. Hebrew on sign reads: "Abu Mazen's workers." (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
  • A Palestinian girl waves a flag during a rally supporting the Palestinian U.N. bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)A Palestinian girl waves a flag during a rally supporting the Palestinian U.N. bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
  • People hold a giant Palestinian flag during a rally in support of the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West Bank town of Jenin, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)People hold a giant Palestinian flag during a rally in support of the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West Bank town of Jenin, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)
  • CORRECTS NAME TO  WATERS IN LAST SENTENCE - Roger Waters, center, founding member of Pink Floyd, meets U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, second from right, sits waiting for the start of a meeting on Palestine, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 in New York.  Palestinians are expected to win U.N. recognition as a state, even as the U.S., Israel's closest ally, mounts an aggressive campaign to head off the General Assembly vote.  Waaters was on a list of speakers at the meeting observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)CORRECTS NAME TO WATERS IN LAST SENTENCE - Roger Waters, center, founding member of Pink Floyd, meets U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, second from right, sits waiting for the start of a meeting on Palestine, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 in New York. Palestinians are expected to win U.N. recognition as a state, even as the U.S., Israel's closest ally, mounts an aggressive campaign to head off the General Assembly vote. Waaters was on a list of speakers at the meeting observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
  • A girl with the Palestinian flag painted  on her face attends a rally supporting the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)A girl with the Palestinian flag painted on her face attends a rally supporting the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
  • A Hassidic Jew holds a Palestinian flag and a sign during a rally supporting the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)A Hassidic Jew holds a Palestinian flag and a sign during a rally supporting the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The Palestinians are certain to win U.N. recognition as a state on Thursday but success could exact a high price: delaying an independent state of Palestine because of Israel's vehement opposition. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
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Palestinians won a victory on the world stage Thursday when the U.N. General Assembly voted to grant them enhanced status in the world body, but they could face a backlash in Washington, where lawmakers introduced legislation to kick them out of their diplomatic offices and to strip U.S. aid.

The 138-9 U.N. vote elevates Palestine to “non-member observer state” status, which could give it access to some international bodies, including the chance to take cases to the International Criminal Court.

Palestinian officials said the vote amounts to granting it a “birth certificate” signifying its validity as a state. Israel’s ambassador disputed that, saying it does not confer statehood, because the two Palestinian territories in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank do not meet the definitions of an independent country.

And the entire exercise was colored by the recent flare-up of violence that saw rockets shot from Gaza into Israel and Israeli military strikes in return in Gaza. That violence was halted late last week by a cease-fire.

“The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly, enough of aggression,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the U.N., drawing standing ovations at the beginning and end of his address. His speech was peppered with charges of Israeli aggression in Gaza, where he talked of children “murdered” by Israeli forces.

The vote set off celebrations in the West Bank city of Ramallah, according to the Associated Press, which reported Palestinians setting off fireworks and honking car horns.

Mr. Abbas said his goal in seeking the U.N. recognition was not to halt the peace process. It was the only way, he said, to restart negotiations toward a two-state solution.

Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., said the U.N. vote would do just the opposite.

“There are no short cuts, no quick fixes, no instant solutions,” he said.

Mr. Prosor also said by voting to give Palestine enhanced status the U.N. is allowing Palestinians to break binding agreements that called for the two sides to resolve matters through direct negotiations.

“For the people of Israel, it raises a simple question ­— why continue to make painful sacrifices for peace, in exchanges for pieces of paper that the other side will not honor,” he said.

The U.S. and Israel voted against the move, as did Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama. Another 41 countries abstained.

Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said the vote does nothing to enhance prospects for average Palestinians.

“Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it,” she said.

In Washington, members of Congress took steps to try to punish the Palestinians for their move. A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to kick the Palestinian Liberation Organization out of its offices on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C., and to withhold U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority should it choose to take its complaints to the ICC.

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