A majority of United Nations countries have voted to give the Palestinians non-member observer status.
In all, 138 countries backed President Mahmoud Abbas, while nine voted against it.
Britain was set to be among 41 countries to formally abstain in the General Assembly vote, which Mr Abbas described as the "last chance to save the two-state solution".
Ron Prosor, the former Israeli ambassador to the UK, who is now Israel's envoy to the UN, said: "The only way to reach peace is through agreements" between the two sides.
The decision was labelled "unfortunate and counterproductive" by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
She said the bid created "further obstacles in the path to peace," adding: "Only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace that both deserve: two states for two people, with a sovereign, viable and independent Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel."
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Prime Minister, said on Twitter that there would "be no establishment of [a] Palestinian state without settlement that ensures security of Israel's citizens".
He added: "The way to peace between Jerusalem and Ramallah is in direct negotiations, without preconditions, and not in one-sided UN decisions."
"With this resolution, the General Assembly has handed the Palestinian leadership a pyrrhic public relations victory, which in all likelihood will make it even more difficult to move the process forward,” said the Anti-Defamation League, a US hate monitor, in a statement shortly after the vote. "Adding insult to injury, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in his remarks reiterated some of his more outrageous charges against Israel. His were not the words of a statesman seeking peace.
“Now that it’s done, something can be salvaged from this debacle if the Palestinians live up to the statements by Mr Abbas that if this resolution is passed, he will return to the negotiating table with Israel. This is not a time for ifs, ands or buts. He must return to the table without preconditions and without delay.
"Otherwise, this event will simply be seen as one more attempt to avoid peace with the Jewish state.”