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 said the large number of U.N. members, 138, that voted for them Thursday, added legitimacy to their claim for statehood. They say the vote adds weight to their position in the peace negotiations with Israel.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to an exhibition marking 35 years since Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's visit to Israel, Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Jerusalem, Nov. 29, 2012.
Nine states, including Israel and the United States, opposed the resolution. Forty-one, including Britain and Germany, abstained. The bid was endorsed by a large number of European Union members.
On Friday in East Jerusalem, Muslim worshippers streamed through Damascus gate for prayers. The mood seemed relaxed. Israeli security forces were present but less visible than on most Fridays.
Retired Palestinian Authority civil servant Mohammed Faqih said while the vote did not change much for daily Palestinian life, it was still cause for celebration. He said he found joy in that it is the first time the international community has recognized Palestinians' right to statehood.
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Fruit juice vendor Ibrahim Abdullah said it brought hope for the future. He said he hopes this will bring some good and that the situation in the Mideast will remain peaceful and quiet.
Palestinian UN Statehood Vote
Palestinians won non-member observer state status
They previously had non-member observer entity status
The new status allows Palestinians to participate in General Assembly debates
State status lets Palestinians apply to join the International Criminal Court and other U.N. agencies
A Palestinian bid to gain full U.N. membership failed in 2011
Many Palestinians said they hoped the vote would bring a resumption of peace negotiations with Israel that have been stalled for months.
But a local leader of the Palestinian Fatah movement, Abu Daoud, said the vote accomplished little because he believes land currently controlled by Israel belongs to the Palestinians.
"I am very happy the nations [of the world] spoke to us and [recognized] our rights," he said. "But our right is Tel Aviv."
Many Israelis see the U.N. action as furthering divisions.
In West Jerusalem, an Israeli student named Irma — who does not want to use her last name — said the U.N. decision worried her because it will strengthen militant Palestinians.
"They will have more power and they will attack us more and more," she said. "And there will be a war, or something."
A few hours before Thursday's U.N. vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it would not affect the stalemated peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
He said Israelis should not overreact because no matter how many hands are raised against Israel, there is no force in the world that can push him to compromise on the security of Israel.
But Israeli documentary filmmaker Noam Kuzar does not agree.
"I think the government policy does not reflect what all the people want," he said. "The people just want to live their daily lives, to have their own security and salary and education and health. And other than that the politicians are talking high but not promoting things on the ground."