The UN General Assembly has voted to grant the Palestinians non-member observer state status – a move opposed by Israel and the US.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the assembly the vote was the “last chance to save the two-state solution” with Israel.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said the bid “doesn’t advance peace – it pushes it backwards”.
The assembly voted 138-9 in favour, with 41 nations abstaining.
“Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel,” Mr Abbas told the assembly.
“The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine,” he said.
Mr Prosor said “the only way to reach peace is through agreements” between the parties, not at the UN.
“No decision by the UN can break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel,” he said.
Opponents of the bid say a Palestinian state should emerge only out of bilateral negotiations, as set out in the 1993 Oslo peace accords under which the Palestinian Authority was established.
Speaking after the vote, the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, urged the Palestinians and Israel to resume direct peace talks and warned against unilateral actions.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote “unfortunate and counter-productive”, saying it put more obstacles on the path to peace.
The Palestinians are seeking UN recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the lands Israel captured in 1967.
France, Spain and Norway are among those urging the General Assembly to raise the Palestinians’ UN status. Germany was set to abstain.
While the move is seen as a symbolic milestone in Palestinian ambitions for statehood, the “Yes” vote will also have a practical diplomatic effect, says the BBC’s Barbara Plett, at the UN.
It would allow the Palestinians to participate in debates at the UN and improve their chances of joining UN agencies and bodies like the International Criminal Court.
Last year, Mr Abbas asked the UN Security Council to admit the Palestinians as a member state, but that was opposed by the US.