A man raises the Palestinian flag. (Photo: Reuters)
The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a Palestinian resolution that will allow Palestine to fly its flag at UN headquarters, a move that infuriated Israel but which the Palestinians described as a step toward UN membership.
There were 119 votes in favor out of 193 UN members.
The United States and Israel were among eight countries that voted against the Palestinian-drafted resolution, which says the flags of non-member observer states like Palestine "shall be raised at (UN) Headquarters and United Nations Offices following the flags of the member states."
Most of the 28-nation European Union were among the 45 nations that abstained, though France and more than half a dozen others voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution after the EU split on the issue.
"It's a step to the recognition of Palestine as a full member state of the United Nations," Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told reporters in Paris earlier on Thursday.
The only other non-member observer state is the Vatican, which reacted coolly when the Palestinians first circulated their draft resolution last month.
The Palestinians initially presented their initiative as a joint effort with the Holy See, but the Vatican said it would not co-sponsor the resolution and requested that its name be removed from the text.
The Vatican said on Wednesday it had not decided whether to fly its flag next to the Palestinians', should the resolution pass.
The resolution says observer states' flags will be flown within 20 days. Palestinian diplomats say they expect their flag to be raised on Sept. 30, the day Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses world leaders at the annual gathering of the UN General Assembly.
Israel had urged member states to oppose the Palestinian draft resolution, calling it "another cynical misuse of the UN by the Palestinian Authority." Washington said the initiative was "counterproductive."
Alongside France, EU members Sweden, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Belgium and Malta cast yes votes. France has been spearheading a push to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which collapsed in 2014.
"We need to mobilize a new dynamic to preserve the two-state solution," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in Paris.
"We have to reduce tension on the ground and restart a credible dialogue," he added. "Without a resolution of this conflict it will be difficult to find solutions elsewhere in the region."
In 2012, the General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine. That followed a failed bid by the Palestinians to secure full UN membership.