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Fri November 30, 2012
Middle East

U.N.'s Palestine Vote: Symbolic Or Game-Changer?

Originally published on Thu December 13, 2012 7:41 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And a very different emotion on the West Bank, where Palestinians are reveling today in their new status as a non-member observer state in the United Nations. What that change means depends on who's talking. NPR's Philip Reeves was in the West Bank city of Ramallah, as the vote was announced.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, CROWD CHATTER)

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: A small crowd of Palestinians gathered in the city center to watch the vote. It was beamed live from New York onto a big screen. They flourished flags, cheered as yes votes came in, one by on, and celebrated the outcome.

(APPLAUSE)

REEVES: The crowd watched Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas make a speech.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS: (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: But when Israel's U.N. ambassador began his address, the audio was switched to music.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Is it just cut off here, or is it cut off on Palestinian TV?

REEVES: Some analysts say this vote's mostly symbolic. One of the crowd, Suha Awadallah, disagrees.

SUHA AWADALLAH: It has a real meaning. That means we are people, that we have a land and we are going to have a state.

REEVES: Palestinian leaders say the vote's a game-changer. Israel must now deal with a state with rights, said one. Israel says the decision is meaningless, and changes nothing on the ground. It accuses the Palestinians of violating agreements by going to the U.N., and says it will respond. Relations between the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships have hit another low.

Haitem Ahmed el-Fahh, one of the crowd, still believes, though, there will be a peace accord one day. Of the U.N. vote, he says...

HAITEM AHMED EL-FAHH: I don't think it will be any different. It just says that there will be a name of Palestine everywhere in U.N. organization.

REEVES: One organization the Palestinians now have a better chance of joining is the International Criminal Court. Many Palestinians hope that'll lead to charges against Israel for alleged war crimes. Mark Regev, spokesman for Israel's prime minister, says that's a two-way street.

MARK REGEV: Palestinians have been shooting rockets at Israeli civilians indiscriminately, at our cities - not at military targets, but at population centers. That's a war crime.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.