Recently, The United Nations granted Palestine observer status. What, if anything, does this enable Palestine to do that they couldn't do before, or is the gesture simply a symbolic step?
Observers have the right to speak at United Nations General Assembly meetings, participate in procedural votes, and to sponsor and sign resolutions
Most importantly, it gives Palestinians access to other U.N. bodies like the International Criminal Court, where Palestinians could launch complaints against Israel. Example:
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Russian Parlament Mikhail Margelov felt that raising the representation of Palestine to the recipe a non-member observer state at the United Nations allows the Palestinians to file complaints and lawsuits against the “entity” in the International Court in The Hague.
Margelov told reporters, “The General Assembly of the United Nations lifted Palestinian representation to recipe observer State is a member of the United Nations, a status that enables Palestinians to file complaints and lawsuits against military strikes Zionism to United Nations agencies of the 18, including the Hague tribunal.” (src)
Moreover, pretty much everyone admits that - in practice - the vote amounted to recognition of sovereignty. Example: Reuters.