UNITED NATIONS Friday was the day of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who went ahead with formally requesting the Security Council to grant full UN membership as a path toward Palestinian statehood, despite fierce opposition from Israel and her few supporters, and a clearly stated US threat of veto. His resolute move showed his distrust with the arguments by the US and Israel that the UN state membership was not a substitute for direct negotiations for peace in the Middle East. It also showed that for the cause of his people he could face all pressure, be it form the so-called super power of the world. All of the General Assembly, save few delegates, greeted Abbas with a standing ovation as he came to deliver his speech to the 193-member assembly. He was in fact greeted with numerous standing ovations from the moment he approached the lectern to the end of his historic speech. Setting out his case to the assembly, he said: We extend our hands to the Israeli government and the Israeli people for peacemaking I do not believe anyone with a shred of conscience can reject our application for full admission in the United Nations. He called statehood the realisation of the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people. The largest and most sustained applause, along with cheers and whistles of approval, came as Abbas held up a copy of the letter requesting membership that he said he had handed to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon shortly before. The time has come, he proclaimed. His appeal to the council reflects a loss of faith after 20 years of failed peace talks sponsored by the United States, Israels main ally, and alarm at relentless Israeli settlement expansion eating into the land Palestinians want for a state of their own. It also exposes Washingtons dwindling influence in a region shaken by Arab uprisings and shifting alliances that have pushed Israel, for all its military muscle, deeper into isolation. Our people will continue their popular, peaceful resistance, Abbas declared. This (Israeli settlement) policy will destroy the chances of achieving a two-state solution and... threatens to undermine the structure of the Palestinian National Authority and even end its existence. It was the first time Abbas spoke so starkly of the prospect of the PAs demise, highlighting the predicament faced by a body set up as a state-in-waiting but now seen by its critics as a big municipality, managing the civilian affairs of the main Palestinian cities under Israeli occupation. Less than an hour later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel took to the same lectern in the hall that, according to him, for too long has been place of darkness for my country and said that he would not be seeking applause but rather speaking hard truths. The truth is the Palestinians want a state without peace, he said. Netanyahu lashed out at the United Nations, which he described as a theatre of the absurd, and challenged a comment by Abbas that the Palestinians were armed only with their hopes and dreams. Hopes, dreams and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran, Mr Netanyahu said. The request for Palestinian statehood on land occupied by Israel has become the dominant issue at this years General Assembly, refocusing global attention on one of the worlds most intractable conflicts. Both men used the occasion to summarise the history of the conflict from their own perspectives. Netanyahu, in his early remarks, reviewed the many occasions when the UN had issued resolutions against Israel, saying the country had been unjustly singled out for condemnation more often than all the other nations combined. Mr Abbas, in his 40-minute speech, said every previous peace effort had been shattered on the rock of Israeli settlements and cited what he said was the historical responsibility of the United Nations to solve the problem. He described the West Bank as the last occupation in the world, one that showed no sign of ending. It is neither possible nor practical nor acceptable to return to conducting business as usual, he said. Drawing a line between his statehood request and the revolutions that swept through the Arab World this spring, he said, The time has come also for the Palestinian spring, the time for independence. The Security Council is likely to take up the issue in earnest next week, diplomats said, when the question becomes whether the US and its allies can stall it. But the diplomatic wrangling at the UN is expected to take several weeks as Washington is working to prevent the Palestinians from gathering the nine votes needed for it to pass in the full council and thus avoid further wrecking the image of the US in the Middle East by casting yet another veto against Arabs. The US on Friday again called on Palestinian president to return to direct negotiations with Israel after he delivered the letter of application for UN state membership. It has earlier threatened to veto any application to the UN Security Council for Palestinian membership. When the speeches end today, we must all recognise that the only way to create a state is through direct negotiations. No shortcuts, said the US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice in a Twitter statement released after Abbas met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Abbas made the application despite a personal appeal this week from US President Barack Obama, who also said there can be no Palestinian state without an accord with Israel made in direct negotiations. Rice led the US delegation listening to Abbas speech in the General Assembly hall. While the Palestinian leader was given wild acclaim at the end of his speech, Rice and two other US diplomats sat in silence and did not applaud. The Israeli delegation, led by deputy UN ambassador Haim Waxman, also remained stoically immobile during the raucous applause.