The UN General Assembly has voted to grant Palestine "non-member state" UN observer status, by 138 votes to nine, with 41 countries abstaining, after the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, asked it to endorse a Palestinian "birth certificate".
The US, Israel, Canada, the Czech Republic, Palau, Nauru, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands voted against.
The window of opportunity is narrowing and time is quickly running out. The rope of patience is shortening and hope is withering.
Mr Abbas was given a standing ovation on Thursday at the start and end of a 22-minute speech to the UN General Assembly in which he said he wanted to "breathe new life" into efforts to reach a settlement with Israel.
Last chance to save a two-state solution ... Mahmoud Abbas acknowledges applause after his UN speech. Photo: AP
Mr Abbas was speaking ahead of a vote on a resolution calling for "non-member observer state" membership of the UN for the Palestinian Authority. He said UN members had to "issue a birth certificate of the reality of the state of Palestine".
The United States and Israel strongly opposed the resolution, but it won overwhelming backing from the 193-member assembly.
Minutes before the vote the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the Palestinians ‘‘have violated agreements with Israel and Israel will act accordingly’’. The UN vote was a ‘‘meaningless decision that will not change anything on the ground’’, he said.
Mr Abbas said the international community stood "before the last chance to save the two-state solution," in a speech that made repeated references to Israel's military assault this month against rockets fired from Gaza.
"There was no need for thousands of deadly raids and tonnes of explosives for the world to be reminded that there is an occupation that must come to an end," Mr Abbas declared.
The United States has said the resolution will not help a return to talks, but Mr Abbas said the initiative was "aimed at trying to breathe new life into the negotiations and at setting a solid foundation" for success.
Mr Abbas said the Palestinians would accept "no less than the independence of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital".
But he added: "We must repeat here once again our warning: the window of opportunity is narrowing and time is quickly running out. The rope of patience is shortening and hope is withering."
Mr Abbas said the Palestinian Authority would consult other countries and act "responsibly" after its diplomatic status was bolstered.
"We will act responsibly and positively in our next steps, and we will to work to strengthen co-operation with the countries and peoples of the world for the sake of a just peace," he said.
Jubilant Palestinians crowded around outdoor screens and television sets to watch the United Nations vote.
The vote will grant Mr Abbas an overwhelming international endorsement for his key position: establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
?The UN bid may help Mr Abbas restore some of his standing, which has been eroded by years of standstill in peace efforts.
His rival, Hamas, has become more popular in that time.