Palestinians believe today's step is more than symbolic

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Cheers erupted in the galleries and on the floor of the UN General Assembly.

It is 65 years to the day since the UN agreed to the partition of Palestine.

65 years of conflict and trauma followed.

Palestinians believe today's step is more than symbolic.

Mahmoud Abbas called this the last chance of keeping alive the Palestinian dream of an independent state.

He pleaded for the nations of the UN to issue Palestine with a birth certificate.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN in New York Credit: Reuters

Abbas is also acutely aware he is losing out to the radicals of Hamas.

So for the moderates of the Palestinian Authority this is an act not of diplomatic confrontation but of political survival.

Israel sees this UN vote as leading the peace process into a cul-de-sac.

This vote passed overwhelmingly - only 9 nations voted against - because there is no peace process.

It is obliquely a challenge to a re-elected President Obama to engage in the Middle East and not to watch events like a helpless spectator.

139 nations voted in favour of Palestine, nine against - including Israel and the US - and 41 abstained. Credit: Twitter/UN General Assembly President
Jubilation in the streets with men dancing to the news of the UN vote Credit: Reuters
A young Palestinian girl waves a flag and makes the peace sign Credit: Reuters

So the Palestinians have secured their victory.

It will have no immediate material impact on the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza.

But when you don't have a state, when you feel besieged and humiliated, pride and symbols matter.

Never more so than tonight, as Abbas' smile revealed, as he jubilantly left the United Nations.

Palestinian flags are waved by the crowd during Abbas' speech to the UN. Credit: EBU