The admission of Palestine as a nonmember state in the United Nations is far more than a symbolic vote.
Here is a look at how key players are affected by Thursday’s vote:
Mahmoud Abbas gets a boost. As peace efforts flagged, Abbas has lost popularity, while Hamas rides high after battling Israel in Gaza. The vote grants Abbas global endorsement for his positions: a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, the territories captured by Israel in 1967. With Israel opposed to a pullback, this should strengthen Abbas’ hand if peace talks resume. It opens the door to the Palestinians joining UN agencies, especially the International Criminal Court. However, the vote does not change the situation on the ground.
The vote amounts to a massive international show of displeasure with Israel. Germany, Italy, France and Australia may abstain or vote with the Palestinians. The resolution could weaken Israeli claims to keeping parts of the West Bank and east Jerusalem. After four years of deadlock in peace efforts, the world seems to be laying the blame on Israel. If opinion polls are correct and Netanyahu wins next elections, he could find face tough international pressure for concessions.
The vote appears to reflect the world’s frustration over President Barack Obama’s failure to get Israel and the Palestinians to start talking. Obama initially spoke out against Israeli settlements and even coaxed Netanyahu into a partial freeze on construction. But after the freeze expired, Netanyahu rejected Obama’s calls to extend it. Obama will likely face pressure to make another diplomatic push in the region.
The Islamic militant group ruling Gaza has been emboldened by the fight against Israel this month. Since capturing Gaza from Abbas in 2007, both sides have largely resisted attempts to reconcile. The vote is an important reminder that Abbas is still the main address for the international community, and could put pressure on Hamas to reconcile.