Benjamin Netanyahu
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wonders (Reuters)

With Palestine expected to gain UN recognition with the granting of observer status, Israel's response to a favourable vote remains unclear.

Most of the 193 UN member states, including some European countries such as France, Italy and Spain, have pledged to vote in favour of the resolution that would give Palestine UN non-member observer state status.

But as voting loomed, Israeli officials played down its importance.

"The decision at the United Nations will change nothing on the ground. It will not advance the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rather, put it further off," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Earlier this month Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened an "extreme response" if Palestine went ahead with its bid at the UN.

In Israel, settlers and rightwing forces demanded a hard response from government and threatened to burn Palestinian flags in protest.

"We're concerned by Israel's lack of response to this provocative Palestinian step that is akin to a declaration of diplomatic warfare," Dani Dayan, head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, told the Jerusalem Post.

Palestine recognition in the UN would be likely to probably harden future border negotiations with Israel.

Firm response

At the moment, however, the Israeli government seems more worried about what actions Palestine could seek on the international stage if it achieved the new status.

Observer states have access to a UN agencies and to the International Court of Justice, where Palestine has already vowed to seek compensation for Israel's alleged war crimes.

"We're going to see where the Palestinians take this. If they use it to continue confronting Israel and other UN bodies, there will be a firm response. If not, then there won't," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The New York Times.

The UN vote could also influence the result of Israel's elections in January. If the operation in Gaza can be seen as electoral point-scoring by Netanyahu and his conservative Likud party, Palestine's UN recognition could be regarded as a diplomatic failure for him.

Activists and leftists in Israel welcomed the Palestinian initiative at the UN as a fundamental turning point to start serious negotiations.