Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has formally asked the United Nations to recognise a state for his people, even though Israel still occupies its territory and the United States has vowed to veto the move.
Mr Abbas on Friday handed the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon an application for full UN membership, which the Security Council must then consider.
In a speech setting out his case to the UN General Assembly on Friday, Mr Abbas said the Palestinians extended their hands to the Israeli government and the Israeli people for peacemaking.
''The time has come for my courageous and proud people, after decades of displacement and colonial occupation and ceaseless suffering, to live like other peoples of the earth, free in a sovereign and independent homeland,'' he said.
The assembly greeted him with a standing ovation.
Crowds in the West Bank roared their approval as Mr Abbas demanded UN acceptance of a Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem.
It was the largest crowd seen in Ramallah since the funeral of Yasser Arafat in 2004.
Israel and the United States say a Palestinian state can only be achieved through talks with Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the General Assembly after Mr Abbas, saying Israeli wanted peace.
US President Barack Obama told Mr Abbas on Thursday that the United States would use its Security Council veto to block the application.
The BBC reports a Security Council vote could take weeks to come about and the US may not even need to exercise its veto, as Washington and Israel have been lobbying council members to either vote against the plan or abstain.
Quartet calls for fresh talks
In a bid to forestall the UN vote, the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators has now called for direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians to resume within one month and finish within one year.
The Quartet, made up of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, says it wants to see comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security, and substantial progress within six months.
Speaking after meeting at the UN, the European Union foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, said the Quartet envoys would work with the parties.
The BBC reports this is not the first 12-month deadline for the creation of a Palestinian state and a Middle East peace treaty.
This week last year, Mr Obama called for a Palestinian state within 12 months. His predecessor George Bush said 12 months before he left office that there would be a Palestinian state within a year.