The vote was 138 delegates in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions
The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday endorsed an upgraded U.N. status for the Palestinian Authority, despite intense opposition from the United States and Israel.
The resolution elevates their status from "non-member observer entity" to "non-member observer state," the same category as the Vatican, which Palestinians hope will provide new leverage in their dealings with Israel.
Its leaders had been working with dozens of supporting nations to develop a formal draft, enlisting the backing of European countries such as France and Spain.
The vote was 138 delegates in favor of the measure, nine against and 41 abstentions, including Germany.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the move, which many call symbolic, represents a "last chance to save the two-state solution."
It comes on the heels of an eight-day conflict that raged between Israel and Hamas fighters, where a series of airstrikes and rocket launches drew international attention and threatened regional stability.
"We did not come here seeking to delegitimize 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," he said.
But Israel's U.N. ambassador Ron Prosor said the move largely ignores the specifics of longstanding issues, such as settlements in disputed lands, and cannot substitute for direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
This resolution "doesn't pursue peace," Prosor said, criticizing Abbas for being unable to represent the Gaza Strip, where a Hamas-controlled government presides.
"It pushes it backwards," he said.
The effort stalled last year when it became apparent that the bid could not get the necessary support in the Security Council. Observer state status does not require Security Council approval, unlike full membership recognition.
The observer status resolution needs only a majority of the U.N.'s 193 members to approve.
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David Ariosto and Michael Pearson