UPDATE: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas filed a formal application with the U.N. on Friday asking for international recognition of statehood for his people.
The formal request "reflects a loss of faith after 20 years of failed peace talks sponsored by the United States, Israel's main ally, and alarm at relentless Israeli settlement expansion eating into the land Palestinians want for a state," according to Reuters.
“Enough, enough, enough,” Abbas said during his address to the U.N. General Assembly shortly after handing in the application. “It is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence.”
Next up at the podium Friday was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who insisted that peace between the two sides would only occur through further negotiations, not U.N. action.
“The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel, and then get their state,” he said, adding: “We’re in the same building. So let’s meet here today in the United Nations. . . . If we genuinely want peace, what is there to stop us.?”
UPDATE Thursday, Sept. 21: It looks like President Obama's U.N. speech wasn't enough to convince Palestine to hold off on its push for international recognition.
Here's how the New York Times broke down the Wednesday's developments: "A last-ditch American effort to head off a Palestinian bid for membership in the United Nations faltered. President Obama tried to qualify his own call, just a year ago, for a Palestinian state. And President Nicolas Sarkozy of France stepped forcefully into the void, with a proposal that pointedly repudiated Mr. Obama’s approach."
In a meeting with Obama after his speech, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made it clear to the president that he had no interest in dropping the bid for a U.N. vote, despite Obama's threat to veto the move in the Security Council and a push by the U.S. and others to convince Palestinians to return to negotiations with Israel and avoid the diplomatic conflict with Washington.
Making a difficult situation that much more so for Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged the U.N. to grant the Palestinians the status of observer state, like the Vatican, while outlining a one-year roadmap to peace, Reuters reports.
The one good bit of news for Obama is that, the veto threat notwithstanding, the Palestinians are currently at least one Security Council vote shy of the nine they would need for their measure to reach the full General Assembly and have suggested that they won't push for an immediate vote, according to Bloomberg.
“We will give some time to the Security Council to consider first our full membership request before heading to the General Assembly,” Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath told reporters Wednesday. “If we fail, we will keep knocking on the door. We do not have a time limit.”
POST Wednesday. Sept. 20: Speaking at the United Nations on Wednesday, President Obama said that the Palestinians deserve their own state, but only through negations with Israel and not through a U.N. vote that could occur later this week.
"Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N.," Obama told delegates. "If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now."
He added: "Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians—not us—who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security, on refugees and Jerusalem."
Obama spoke ahead of a likely bid by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to seek U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state, an effort that the United States has vowed to veto in the U.N. Security Council before it would reach the General Assembly.
The Guardian reports that the Middle East "Quartet" of the United Nations, European Union, Russia, and the United States is attempting to persuade Abbas to back away from the likely diplomatic confrontation with Washington.
The delay of a vote for Palestinian statehood would allow Abbas to save face, following through on his commitment to Palestinians to seek recognition for an independent state, while buying more time for further peace talks between Israel and Palestine.