Celebrations in West Bank over Palestinians' U.N. upgrade

(CBS News) RAMALLAH - The celebrations in the West Bank said everything about how much Thursday's United Nations vote meant to Palestinians.

An overwhelming majority of the General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinians from U.N. observers to non-member observer state.

The observer status is still a long way from a full member at the U.N. But seen from Ramallah's Yasser Arafat Square, it's a huge step forward.

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According to long-time peace negotiator Hannan Ashrawi, Thursday's vote was all about recognition.

"Getting state status is what empowers the Palestinians, what defines our territory as occupied, what defines our relationships regionally and with the rest of the world and what gives us access to international organizations and agencies," Ashrawi said.

The Israelis fear that the Palestinians will use their new status to take Israel to the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in Gaza and elsewhere, which is why they and the U.S. fought against it.

The reality is that little will change in the short term.

Peace negotiator Hannan Ashrawi
Peace negotiator Hannan Ashrawi
CBS News

The Palestinian territory is still a patchwork defined and controlled by Israel. There is no sea port or international airport.

And Israel restricts where Palestinians may work and travel and controls the economy here by controlling access to markets.

When asked if she was more hopeful than in the past, Ashrawi said that would be asking too much.

"The situation is extremely dangerous and extremely precarious," she said.

Sixty-five years ago Thursday, the U.N. voted to form two separate states here, but the Arabs rejected the plan.

Since then there have been four major wars and countless other bloody conflicts.

The U.N. vote will not bring any kind of durable peace or real independence, but for the moment, Palestinians can celebrate it as a rare victory of diplomacy over violence.

  • Allen Pizzey

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