The U.N. General Assembly has elected Israel to chair one of its six major committees for the first time, a decision denounced by the Palestinians and Arab nations.

In Monday's secret ballot election in the 193-member world body, Israel received 109 "yes" votes. Nobody voted against Israel but there were 23 abstentions, 14 invalid ballots, and 43 votes for other countries in the Western European and Others group which nominated Israel to chair the assembly committee dealing with legal issues.

Israel's U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon told reporters: "I am very proud to be the first Israeli to serve as the chairman of a committee."

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said the group should have nominated "a very responsible qualified candidate, not a big violator of international law."