Palestinians make formal statehood bid at U.N.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, gives a letter requesting recognition of Palestine as a state to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the 66th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, Sept. 23, 2011. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Updated at 3:48 p.m. ET

UNITED NATIONS - Defying U.S. and Israeli opposition, Palestinians asked the United Nations on Friday to accept them as a member state, sidestepping nearly two decades of failed negotiations in the hope this dramatic move on the world stage would reenergize their quest for an independent homeland.

In response, the Quartet of Mideast peace mediators — the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia — issued a statement urging Israel and the Palestinians to return to the long-stalled peace talks and reach a deal by 2012.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was greeted by sustained applause and appreciative whistles from the delegations in the General Assembly hall as outlined his people's hopes and dreams of becoming a full member of the United Nations. Some members of the Israeli delegation, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, left the hall as Abbas approached the podium.

Palestinians rally upon submission of U.N. bid

In a scathing denunciation of Israel's settlement policy, Abbas declared that negotiations with Israel "will be meaningless" as long as it continues building on lands the Palestinians claim for that state. Invoking what would be a nightmare for Israel, he went so far as to warn that his government could collapse if the construction persists.

"This policy is responsible for the continued failure of the successive international attempts to salvage the peace process," said Abbas, who has refused to negotiate until the construction stops. "This settlement policy threatens to also undermine the structure of the Palestinian National Authority and even end its existence."

To another round of applause, he held up a copy of the formal membership application and said he had asked U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to expedite deliberation of his request to have the United Nations recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

Shortly after, Ban announced that he had referred the application to the Security Council, where it is expected to founder under the weight of U.S. opposition and a possible veto. The Council has scheduled a meeting on the application for Monday.

Security Council action on the membership request could take weeks or months, effectively buying time for both sides to consider revamped proposals for peace talks, notes CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pam Falk.

The strategy also put the Palestinians in direct confrontation with the U.S., which has threatened to veto their membership bid in the Council, reasoning, like Israel, that statehood can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties to end the long and bloody conflict.

"President Obama, who strongly supported Israel in his address to the U.N., now is under pressure by all sides, including European nations, to bring Israel and the Palestine back to the negotiations with a timeline for a resolution of the final status issues," Falk said.

(President Obama addressed the Palestinian statehood bid, saying there is "no shortcut to peace" during his United Nations speech Wednesday. Watch video at left.)

The speech papered over any Palestinian culpability for the negotiations stalemate, deadly violence against Israel, spurned peace offers and the internal rift that has produced dueling governments in the West Bank and Gaza. It also ignored Jewish links to the Holy Land.

Abbas' jubilant mood was matched by the exuberant celebration of thousands of Palestinians who thronged around outdoor screens in town squares across the West Bank on Friday to see their president submit his historic request for recognition of a state of Palestine to the United Nations.

"I am with the president," said Muayad Taha, a 36-year-old physician, who brought his two children, ages 7 and 10, to witness the moment. "After the failure of all other methods (to win independence) we reached a stage of desperation. This is a good attempt to put the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people on the map. Everyone is here to stand behind the leadership."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing the General Assembly shortly after Abbas, said his country was "willing to make painful compromises."

"I extend my hand to the Palestinian people, with whom we seek a just and lasting peace," Netanyahu said, to extended applause.

Palestinians, he added, "should live in a free state of their own, but they should be ready for compromise" and "start taking Israel's security concerns seriously."

Netanyahu opposes negotiations based on 1967 lines, saying a return to those frontiers would expose Israel's heartland to rocket fire from the West Bank.

To be sure, Abbas' appeal to the U.N. to recognize an independent Palestine would not deliver any immediate changes on the ground: Israel would remain an occupying force in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and continue to severely restrict access to Gaza, ruled by Palestinian Hamas militants.

The strategy also put the Palestinians in direct confrontation with the U.S., which has threatened to veto their membership bid in the Council, reasoning, like Israel, that statehood can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties to end the long and bloody conflict.

Also hanging heavy in the air was the threat of renewed violence over frustrated Palestinian aspirations, in spite of Abbas' vow — perceived by Israeli security officials as genuine — to prevent Palestinian violence. The death on Friday of 35-year-old Issam Badram, in gunfire that erupted after rampaging Jewish settlers destroyed trees in a Palestinian grove, was the type of incident that both Palestinians and Israelis had feared would spark widespread violence.

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