Abbas: Israel destroying two-state solution hopes
At the UNGA, Abbas urged countries at the gathering to recognize Palestine as a state
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas told the UN General Assembly on Thursday that Israel’s settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank was destroying any hope of a two-state solution.
Abbas, who has been Palestinian president for 11 years, urged countries at the gathering to recognize Palestine as a state and once again offered the hand of peace, albeit slamming Israel’s intentions.
“What the Israeli government is doing in pursuit of its expansionist settlement plans will destroy whatever possibility is left for the two-state solution along the 1967 borders,” Abbas said.
The Palestinian leader said his officials would “exert all efforts” to get the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution on settlements and the “terror of the settlers.”
“The settlements are illegal in every aspect,” Abbas said.
“We are undertaking at the moment extensive consultations with Arab countries and other friendly countries on this matter,” he said.
Washington said on August 31 that it was “deeply concerned” following an announcement that Israel had approved the construction of 463 homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.
The approvals mostly involved new housing units, but a retroactive green light was also granted to 179 existing homes in the Ofarim settlement, said the Peace Now organization.
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the Security Council in August that Israeli settlement expansion had surged in the past two months.
The recent report by the diplomatic Quartet - the European Union, Russia, the UN and the United States - said construction of settlements on land earmarked to be part of a future Palestinian state is eroding the possibility of a two-state solution.
“Those who believe in the two-state solution should recognize both states, and not just one of them,” Abbas, who was first elected president in 2005, told the General Assembly.
“We extend our hands to those who want to build peace. But the question remains and persists: is there any leadership in Israel, the occupying power, that desires to make a true peace?” he asked.
“It is Israel’s breach of the agreements it has signed and its failure to comply with the obligations that have led us to the deadlock and stalemate that we remain in now.”
In response to the Palestinian leader's statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended an unprecedented invitation to President Abbas, urging him to address Israel's parliament.
Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu offered in turn to appear before the Palestinian legislature.
"I am ready to negotiate all final status, but one thing I will never negotiate is the right to a one and only Jewish state," Netanyahu said.
The Palestinians quickly rejected the invitation as a "new gimmick" designed to mask what they described as Israel's intransigence on moving forward with the Mideast peace process.
Netanyahu rejects a settlement freeze, rejects the 1967 borders as the basis for talks and rejects any division of Jerusalem. He has also said he would not uproot settlements.
Slamming Israel's "abhorrent" settlement policy, Abbas demanded the United Nations take a bigger role in the effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As the 50th anniversary of Israel's occupation approaches in June, Abbas urged the 193-member General Assembly to declare 2017 "the international year to end the Israeli occupation of our land and our people."
He called on the Security Council to take up a resolution on the settlements, adding, in a clear reference to the United States, "we hope no one will cast a veto."
Netanyahu rejected the idea of greater UN involvement in the peace process.
"We will not accept any attempt by the UN to dictate terms to Israel. The road to peace runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not through New York," he said.
Netanyahu reiterated Israel's longstanding complaints that the UN system is biased against Israel, declaring "the UN, begun as a moral force, has become a moral farce."
But he also insisted Israel's relations with much of the world were rapidly improving, even in the Arab world, where he said many countries are increasingly seeing Israel as an ally against the Islamic State group and Iran.
Abbas denounced Israel's reluctance to involve the international community in the Mideast peace process. He accused Israel of "continuing to evade" an international conference that France wants to hold before the end of the year to work out a framework for negotiating peace.
He insisted "our hand remains outstretched for making peace" but said Israel refuses to "abandon the mentality of hegemony, expansionism and colonization."
The Palestinians have rebuffed Netanyahu's past offers for meetings, although Russia said this month that Abbas and Netanyahu have agreed "in principle" to meet in Moscow for talks aimed at relaunching a peace process.
Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour dismissed Netanyahu's suggestion that Abbas address the Knesset as a "new gimmick."
"Will he attend the International Conference proposed by France and supported by many to be held by the end of the year?" Mansour said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. "You can measure Netanyahu's interest in achieving peace through the number of illegal settlements he builds and Palestinian homes he destroys. He has chosen occupation over peace."
In his speech, Abbas also accused Israel of perpetrating extrajudicial killings against Palestinians, an allegation Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon vehemently rejected. He said Abbas' "dangerous words" were "a ticking time-bomb" that would lead to more attacks against Israel.
"The Palestinian youth listening to his speech today, will be the terrorists of tomorrow," Danon said.
The General Assembly also heard from Iranian President Hassan Rohuani, who blamed the world's "major powers" for the spread of violent extremism and terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the US He said world powers have fostered more insecurity through "repression and military intervention under the pretext of creating a secure environment for their citizens."