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Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev dismissed the U.N. quest as futile, saying that only negotiations with Israel can bring about a Palestinian state.

“They can get pieces of paper from the U.N., but they are not going to move peace forward; they are not going to make a Palestinian statehood more real,” he said.

“They boycott Israel. They refuse to talk to us. Who do they plan to make peace with?” he said.

Surveys indicate that most Palestinians have become disillusioned with prospects of setting up a state through negotiations. Two decades of talks have failed to produce results, marred by intransigence and repeated bouts of violence.

The vote comes at an important time domestically for Mr. Abbas, who has watched his political rival, the Islamic militant group Hamas, gain popularity, particularly after holding its own during an Israeli offensive on Hamas-ruled Gaza earlier this month. The military action was aimed at stopping almost daily rocket barrages from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel.

Hamas, which seized control of Gaza from Mr. Abbas in 2007, argues that negotiations with Israel are a waste of time, but Hamas leaders have come out in support of the U.N. bid in recent days.

During Israel’s Gaza offensive, Mr. Abbas largely was sidelined at his compound in the West Bank, underscoring international concerns that the deadlock in peace efforts increasingly is weakening him and other Palestinian pragmatists.

Abbas aides have said they expect key European countries to support the U.N. bid in an attempt to strengthen Mr. Abbas.

France, Spain, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland have pledged support. Germany said it would not support the initiative, while Britain’s foreign secretary said his government would not oppose it. He said Britain would only vote in favor if the Palestinians softened some of the language.

Israel appeared to be backing away from plans to immediately punish the Palestinians for going to the United Nations. Instead, an Israeli government official said, Israel would wait to see whether the Palestinians would use the world body’s expected approval to hurt Israel.

The Palestinians plan to seek membership or access to a number of international and U.N. agencies, including the International Criminal Court, once their statehood bid is approved.

Israel would respond “forcefully” if the Palestinians try to pursue war crimes charges against Israel at the ICC, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss policy considerations. If the Palestinians use their upgraded international status “as a tool to confront Israel in the international arena, there will be a response.”

Until then, he said, Israel will be bound by its obligations to the Palestinians under existing peace agreements, but it won’t necessarily go beyond them. Earlier there was talk of Israel’s retaliating by canceling the partial peace accords.

Associated Press writer Amy Teibel in Jerusalem contributed to this article.