(by Michael Astor and Peter James Spielmann, from the Associated Press posted at StarTribune)   UNITED NATIONS – In an extraordinary lineup of international support, more than two-thirds of the world body’s 193 member states approved the resolution upgrading the Palestinians’ status from an observer to a nonmember observer state on Thursday, Nov 29. It passed 138-9, with 41 abstentions. …

The vote grants Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas an overwhelming international endorsement for his key position: establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors. A Palestinian flag was quickly unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly, behind the Palestinian delegation, after an electronic screen lit up with the final vote.

Real independence, however, remains an elusive dream until the Palestinians negotiate a peace deal with the Israelis, who warned that the General Assembly action will only delay a lasting solution. Israel still controls the West Bank, east Jerusalem and access to Gaza, and it accused the Palestinians of bypassing negotiations [to establish permanent peace with Israel] with their campaign to [advance] their U.N. status.

The U.N. action could help Mr. Abbas restore some of his standing, which has been eroded by years of stalemate in peace efforts. His rival, the Hamas militant group, which controls Gaza, has seen its popularity rise after it sent a barrage of rocket fire [into Israeli cities and towns] in November after Israel targeted terrorists in Gaza who were leading rocket attacks on Israel. …

The tally came after a speech by Abbas in which he called the moment a “last chance” to save the two-state solution. …

The United States and Israel immediately criticized the vote.

“Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path of peace,” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said. “Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade and the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded.”  [The U.S. opposes any acknowledgement of a Palestinian state at the UN until a permanent peace agreement has been signed with Israel.]

Calling the vote “meaningless,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Abbas of spreading “[lies]” against Israel in a speech he [said was] “defamatory and venomous.”

“The resolution in the U.N. today won’t change anything on the ground,” Netanyahu said. “It won’t advance the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rather, put it further off.”

With most U.N. members sympathetic to the Palestinians, there had been no doubt the resolution would be approved. A state of Palestine has already been recognized by 132 countries, and the Palestinians have 80 embassies and 40 representative offices around the world, according to the Palestinian Foreign Ministry.

Still, the Palestinians lobbied hard for Western support, winning over key European countries including France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and Ireland, as well as Japan and New Zealand. Germany and Britain were among the many Western nations that abstained.

Joining the United States and Israel in voting “no” were Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama. …

With its newly enhanced status, the Palestinians can now gain access to U.N. agencies and international bodies, most significantly the International Criminal Court, which could become a springboard for going after Israel for alleged war crimes or its ongoing settlement building on war-won land.

However, in the run-up to the U.N. vote, Abbas signaled that he wants recognition to give him leverage in future talks with Israel, and not as a tool for confronting or delegitimizing Israel, as Israeli leaders have claimed.

Speaking stridently at times Thursday, Abbas accused the Israelis of “colonial occupation” that institutionalizes racism and charged that the Jewish state is continuing to perpetuate “war crimes.”

Still, he said the Palestinians did not come to terminate “what remains of the negotiations process” but to try “to breathe new life into the [peace] negotiations [with Israel]” and achieve an independent state.  “We will act responsibly and positively in our next steps,” he said.

The Palestinians turned to the General Assembly after being stymied for full membership last year, when the United States announced it would veto their bid for full U.N. membership until there is a peace deal with Israel. Abbas made clear that this remains the Palestinians’ ultimate goal…

Full membership requires Security Council approval, with no vetoes. The non-member observer state status only required a majority vote of the General Assembly.

The vote granted the Palestinians the same status at the U.N. as the Vatican, and they will keep their seat next to the Holy See in the General Assembly chamber.

The historic vote came 65 years to the day after the U.N. General Assembly voted in 1947 to divide Palestine into two states, one for Jews and one for Arabs. Israel became a state but the Palestinians rejected the partition plan, and decades of tension and violence have followed.

Associated Press writers Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Haitham Hamad and Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, Robert Burns and Bradley Klapper in Washington and Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Visit the website at startribune.com. Associated Press writers wrote this report.


1.  How many of the world’s 196 countries are members of the United Nations?

2.  a) How many members of the UN voted to approve the resolution upgrading the Palestinians’ status from an observer to a nonmember observer state on Thursday? [NOTE: Approximately 50 UN member states are Muslim-majority countries.]b)  List the 9 countries which voted no to giving the Palestinians non-member observer state status.

3.  a) How many UN members abstained from voting?
b)  Do you support the abstention votes?  Explain your answer.

4.  Aside from obtaining non-member observer status at the UN, what is the ultimate goal for the Palestinians?

5.  What do the U.S. and Israel say the Palestinians must do before obtaining full member status at the UN?

6.  What will the Palestinians be able to do at the UN that they were unable to do before the vote?

7.  How did Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas’ talk contradict his insistence that he wants UN recognition to give him leverage in future talks with Israel, and not as a tool for confronting or delegitimizing Israel, as Israeli leaders have said?

8.  How were the Palestinians able to obtain non-member status but not full membership at the UN?



  • The area of modern Israel is small, 8,367 square miles, about the size of New Jersey, and is located roughly on the site of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
  • It is the birthplace of the Hebrew language spoken in Israel and of monotheism, first as Judaism and later of Christianity.
  • It contains sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
  • Although coming under the sway of various empires and home to a variety of ethnicities, the area was predominantly Jewish until the Jewish-Roman wars [approximately 70 A.D.] after which Jews became a minority in most regions, except Galilee.
  • The region became increasingly Christian after the 3rd century and then largely Muslim from the 7th Century Arab conquest up until the 20th century.
  • The area, commonly referred to as the Holy Land or Palestine, became a focal point of conflict between Christianity and Islam between 1096 and 1291 and from the end of the Crusades until the British conquest in 1917 was part of the Syrian province of first the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt and then (from 1517) the Ottoman Empire.
  • In the late-19th century, persecution of Jews in Europe led to the creation of the Zionist movement, which was eventually able to win international support for a Jewish-majority state on the site of the ancient kingdoms.
  • Following the British conquest of Syria in the First World War and the formation of the Palestinian Mandate, Jewish immigration to Palestine increased and gave rise to Arab-Jewish tensions and a collision of the Arab and Jewish nationalist movements.
  • Israeli independence in 1948 was marked by massive immigration of Jews from both Europe [many who were survivors of the Holocaust] and the Islamic world to Israel, and of Arabs from Israel leading to extensive conflict with the Arab League.
  • About 42% of the world’s Jews live in Israel today.
  • Since about 1970, the United States has become the principal ally of Israel.
  • In 1979 an uneasy peace was established with Egypt, based on the Camp David Accords and in 1993 peace treaties were signed with the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization, led by Yassar Arafat] and in 1994 with Jordan.
  • However, conflict with the Arab states and the Palestinians, many of whom live in Israel itself or in territory occupied by Israel after the 1967 war, continues to play a major role in Israeli (and international) political, social and economic life. (from wikipedia)


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