In an impassioned speech before the U.N. general assembly just prior to the vote on granting Palestine upgraded status to nonmember observer, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, warned that the vote served as the "last chance to save the two-state solution" with Israel.

“The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine," Abbas told the 193-nation group.

The measure needs a simple majority to pass -- which it is expected to get, given widespread support from Europe and the Arab world.

However, the U.S. and Israel strongly condemn the proposal, while Britain and Germany are expected to abstain from voting.

Prior to the vote, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged both Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks.

“Achieving the two-ttate solution, to which both Israel and the Palestinians have committed, is long overdue,” Ban said.

“I call on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to show vision and determination. I also urge the international community to help them forge a credible political path that will meet the legitimate aspirations of both sides.”

The Israelis and Palestinians called off direct negotiations in September 2010, when Israel refused to suspend settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Relations worsened recently when Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant organization that rules Gaza, fought an eight-day war which left 158 Palestinians, including 103 civilians, dead, and about 1,269 injured.  Six Israelis were reportedly killed by Palestinian rockets and 224 Israelis were injured, mostly civilians.

Wasef Erekat, 66, a Palestine Liberation Organisation veteran, told the Daily Telegraph: "We are using our rights to tell the world that we are not terrorists, as the Israelis used to say, but human beings who want to become members of the international community.  We are looking for full membership in future. We are moving in the right direction to becoming a Palestinian state."

Israel remains adamantly opposed to granting upgraded status, citing that it violates the 1993 Oslo accords.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, declared in Jerusalem: "The decision at the United Nations today won't change anything on the ground. A Palestinian state will not be established without a declaration of the end of the conflict, and a Palestinian state will not be created without real security arrangements that protect the State of Israel and its citizens.”