RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: An historic United Nations vote recognising Palestine as a non-member state should drive political union between the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and West Bank where the western-backed Palestinian Authority governs, Palestinian officials and experts say.
After the decision of the General Assembly in New York on Thursday, French UN Ambassador Gerard Araud called for "the Palestinians to build on this political success to contribute to the prospects for peace."
He encouraged them to "continue to fight terrorism and to do everything to put an end to attacks" against Israel, but also to move ahead "towards Palestinian reconciliation, without which the two-state solution is nothing but a mirage."
Just before the vote, Israel rebuffed the Palestinian demand for recognition, giving among its reasons, the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip where the militant Islamist group seized power from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's rival Fatah movement after bitter fighting in 2007.
"This resolution will not change the situation on the ground. It will not change the fact that the Palestinian Authority has no control over Gaza," Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor said.
"President Abbas, you can't even visit nearly half the territory of the state you claim to represent."
"That territory is controlled by Hamas, an internationally recognised terrorist organisation," he said, adding a reference to rockets fired into Israel by Gaza militant groups in cross-border fighting earlier this month.
As West Bankers watched TV news, 174 Gaza Palestinians and six Israelis died in the violence, fostering a climate of Palestinian national unity.
Hamas, under the leadership of its exiled leader Khaled Meshaal, officially endorsed Abbas' UN bid.
Ismail Haniya, head of the Hamas government in Gaza, on Friday hailed the UN vote as "a considerable diplomatic and political victory."
"But to translate this resolution into practice and into a physical state, we must continue the resistance and jihad and devote ourselves to Palestinian unity on a strategy of resistance (to Israel)," he added.
Hamas number two, Mussa Abu Marzuk, hailed "a significant political success that will not however change anything on the ground," calling on Palestinians to unite around a "national program based on resistance."
Otherwise, he said, "we will have a sovereign state on part of our land."
On the eve of the vote, Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said a temporary committee including PLO non-members Hamas and Islamic Jihad would meet after Abbas's return from New York.
"These political divisions cannot continue to weaken the Palestinian cause," she said, referring also to reviving a reconciliation pact signed in 2011 but never implemented.
In a statement on behalf of a group of former world leaders known as "The Elders," former US president Jimmy Carter said that the international community "should encourage Fatah and Hamas to reconcile their differences and work together for Palestinian unity."
Mukhaimer Abu Saada, professor of political science at Gaza's Al-Azhar University, said that unity would be a great accomplishment, especially with enhanced UN status, "so the Palestinians can speak in one voice approaching the international community and the region."
He noted that Abbas, commonly known to Palestinians as Abu Mazen, congratulated Haniya after the recent fighting with Israel.
"Abu Mazen used to say that the launching of missiles against Israel was absurd," Abu Saada said. "This time Abu Mazen criticised Israel for inflicting damage and killing Palestinians, he did not say anything about Hamas or resistance."