The United Nations voted overwhelmingly Thursday to recognize a Palestinian state, a victory decades in the making for the Palestinians after years of occupation and war. It was a sharp rebuke for Israel and the United States.
A Palestinian flag was quickly unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly, behind the Palestinian delegation, as the final vote was cast.
In an extraordinary lineup of international support, more than two-thirds of the world body's 193 member states approved the resolution upgrading the Palestinians to a non-member observer state. It passed 138-9, with 41 abstentions.
The historic vote came 65 years to the day after the UN General Assembly voted in 1947 to recognize a state in Palestine, with the jubilant revellers then Jews.
The Palestinians rejected that partition plan, and decades of tension and violence have followed.
Real independence, however, remains an elusive dream until the Palestinians negotiate a peace deal with the Israelis, who warned the General Assembly action will only delay a lasting solution. Israel still controls the West Bank, east Jerusalem and access to Gaza, and it accused the Palestinians of bypassing negotiations with the campaign to upgrade their UN status.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, jubilant Palestinians crowded into the main square, waving Palestinian flags and chanting "God is great!" Hundreds had watched the vote on outdoor screens and televisions, and they hugged, honked their horns and set off fireworks as the final vote was cast.
The tally came after a speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in which he called the moment a "last chance" to save the two-state solution.
"The General Assembly is being asked today to issue the birth certificate of Palestine," the Palestinian leader declared.
The United States and Israel immediately criticized the vote.
"Today's unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path of peace," UN Ambassador Susan Rice said.
"Today's grand pronouncements will soon fade and the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded."
Calling the vote "meaningless," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Abbas of spreading "mendacious propaganda" against Israel in a speech he rejected as "defamatory and venomous."
"The resolution in the UN today won't change anything on the ground," Netanyahu said. "It won't advance the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rather put it further off."
With most UN members sympathetic to the Palestinians, there had been no doubt the resolution would be approved. A state of Palestine has already been recognized by 132 countries, and the Palestinians have 80 embassies and 40 representative offices around the world, according to the Palestinian Foreign Ministry.
Still, the Palestinians lobbied hard for Western support, winning over key European countries including France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and Ireland, as well as Japan and New Zealand. Germany and Britain were among the many Western nations that abstained.
Joining the United States and Israel in voting "no" were Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird used the podium at the United Nations General Assembly to denounce the world body Thursday for its "utterly regrettable decision" to allow a historic vote on Palestinian statehood.
Baird also suggested Canada will take retaliatory measures against the Palestinians for forcing the statehood issue onto the world stage.
The minister didn't say what Canada was contemplating, but the obvious option would appear to be suspending aid spending to the Palestinians.
Despite Thursday's triumph, the Palestinians face enormous limitations. They don't control their borders, airspace or trade, they have separate and competing governments in Gaza and the West Bank and they have no unified army or police.
The vote grants Abbas an overwhelming international endorsement for his key position: establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.
-- The Associated Press, with file from The Canadian Press