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Joy as UN upgrades Palestinians’ status

UNITED NATIONS – In the face of stiff opposition by Israel and the United States, the UN General Assembly Thursday voted to grant the Palestinians non-member observer state status triggering scenes of joy in the occupied West Bank, where thousands celebrated with bursts of gunfire and cheers in the city of Ramallah.President Mahmoud Abbas called on the world body to issue its long overdue ‘birth certificate.’ The 193-member assembly voted 138-9 in favour, with 41 nations abstaining. Loud applause rang out in the packed gold-and-blue assembly hall as the result of the voting was announced.The UN victory for the Palestinians was a blow for Washington and Tel Aviv, who were joined by only a handful of countries in voting against the move to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the United Nations to “non-member state”. Abbas, the Palestinian leader, told the assembly the vote was the “last chance to save the two-state solution” with Israel.

Israel’s envoy to the UN said the bid pushed peace process “backwards”, while the US said the move was “unfortunate”. Commenting on the vote, the New York Times called the outcome as a “stinging defeat for Israel and the United States and a boost for President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.

”Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Masood Khan personally congratulated President Abbas after the vote and reaffirmed Islamabad’s unstinted support for their longstanding cause.

“The people and the Government of Pakistan extend their heartiest congratulation to Palestine on becoming non-member Obsever State,” he said, conveying President Asif Ali Zardari’s and Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s congratulations on the occasion.

Pakistan, Ambassador Khan said, has always demonstrated solidarity with the people of Palestine and always stood with Palestinian people in the international forums, especially at the United Nations. Pakistan, he said, sees the development as a step towards the goal of full Palestinian membership at the world body. The vote on Thursday evening was a globally followed development as millions of Arabs glued to their TV sets for the result.

“Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel,” President Abbas said shortly before the vote in New York.

“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.

”Abbas noted that the world was being asked today to undertake a significant step in the process of rectifying the “unprecedented historical injustice” inflicted on the Palestinian people since 1948.

“Your support for our endeavour today,” he said, “will send a promising message – to millions of Palestinians on the land of Palestine, in the refugee camps both in the homeland and the Diaspora, and to the prisoners struggling for freedom in Israel’s prisons – that justice is possible and that there is a reason to be hopeful and that the people of the world do not accept the continuation of the occupation.

”The Israelis and Palestinians have yet to resume direct negotiations since talks stalled in September 2010, after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“Today’s vote underscores the urgency of a resumption of meaningful negotiations,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the vote was finalised. “We must give new impetus to our collective efforts to ensure that an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine lives side by side with a secure State of Israel. I urge the parties to renew their commitment to a negotiated peace.

”Addressing the same gathering, the President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, appealed to “my dear friends from Palestine and Israel” to work for peace, to negotiate in good faith, and ultimately, to succeed in reaching the historical settlement.

“I have no doubt that history will judge this day to have been fraught with significance – but whether it will come to be looked upon as a step in the right direction on the road to peace will depend on how we bear ourselves in its wake,” he said. “Let us therefore have the wisdom to act in furtherance of the goal I’m sure we all share.

”In the resolution, the Assembly also voiced the hope that the Security Council will “consider favourably” the application submitted in September 2011 by Palestine for full UN membership.

The Palestinian bid for full UN membership stalled last year when the 15-nation Council, which decides whether or not to recommend admission by the Assembly, said it had been “unable to make a unanimous recommendation.

”Today’s action comes on the same day that the UN observed the annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Established in 1977, the day marks the date in 1947 when the Assembly adopted a resolution partitioning then-mandated Palestine into two States, one Jewish and one Arab.

Agencies add: The victory for president Mahmud Abbas triggered scenes of joy in the occupied West Bank, where thousands celebrated with bursts of gunfire and cheers in the city of Ramallah.

The vote lifts the Palestinian Authority from an observer entity to a “non-member observer state” on a par with the Vatican. Palestine has no vote in the General Assembly but can now join UN agencies and potentially the International Criminal Court (ICC), where it could ask for a probe of Israeli actions, including during the recent fighting in Gaza.

Euphoric Palestinians erupted in cheers, honked car horns and chanted “God is great” after the United Nations endorsed the Palestine bid, giving sweeping international backing to their demands for sovereignty over lands Israel occupied in 1967.

“It’s a great feeling to have a state, even if in name only,” said civil servant Mohammed Srour, 28, standing in a flag-waving a crowd of more than 2,000 packed into a square in the West Bank city of Ramallah late Thursday. “The most beautiful dream of any man is to have an independent state, particularly for us Palestinians who have lived under occupation for a long time.

“Palestinians in the coastal strip also celebrated the vote, though on a smaller scale than after the massive eruption of joy in the streets after last week’s cease-fire deal with Israel.

Some set off fireworks, others shot in the air and children in the streets cheered and flashed victory signs. “Today is a big joy for all of us,” Abu Yazan, a 29-year-old Abbas supporter, said.

Izzat Rishaq, a senior Hamas figure in exile, said he welcomed the UN vote as an achievement, but that Hamas counts on “heroic resistance” to create a Palestinian state underlining the group’s deep ideological rift with Abbas who opposes violence.

courtesy: The Nation

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