Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas filed on Friday a request for a UN vote on Palestinian statehood recognition to UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
Crowds gathered in the West Bank cheered the news.
Abbas began a speech to the UN General Assembly shortly after.
The U.S. has said it will use its Security Council veto to block any Palestinian bid for full membership of the UN.
But Abbas said he will go ahead with the bid anyway. The majority of UN member states support their bid, but approval in the General Assembly alone would not give the Palestinians full membership status.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said earlier in the day that Tel Aviv would pull out of talks with the Palestinians if they pressed ahead with the attempt to gain UN membership.
The Security Council has yet to fix a date for its consideration of the bid, although Ban is expected to ask it to do so as soon as possible.