Palestinian leader threatens to no longer recognize Israel as country in UN speech
The leader of the Palestinian territories threatened to no longer recognize Israel as a country in a speech to the United Nations on Friday, giving Israel a one-year ultimatum to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories.
President Mahmoud Abbas delivered the warning in a lengthy pre-recorded speech to the United Nations General Assembly. His speech was unusually harsh and accused Israel of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing”.
Abbas has long been committed to a two-state solution and has said he is ready to negotiate the final borders in the coming year. However, if Israel did not end its occupation of the territories seized in the 1967 war, it would no longer grant it recognition as a country.
“If this is not achieved, why maintain recognition of Israel on the basis of the 1967 borders? Abbas said.
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“If the Israeli occupation authorities continue to anchor the reality of an apartheid state as it is today, our Palestinian people and the whole world will not tolerate such a situation,” Abbas said. “Circumstances on the ground will inevitably impose equal and complete political rights for all in the land of historic Palestine, within one state.
A one-state solution, while popular with some Israeli and Palestinian activists, would spell the end of Israel as a predominantly Jewish state. No major Israeli or Palestinian party supports such a result.
Abbas spoke against a background showing the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a sacred holy site for Muslims and Jews, and a series of maps of the area showing Israel’s territorial expansion over decades of war and conflict.
Abbas also threatened to confront Israel in the International Court of Justice.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN said Abbas had “once again proven himself to be irrelevant.”
“Those who really support peace and negotiations do not threaten delusional ultimatums from the UN platform as he did in his speech,” Gilad Erdan said in a statement.
Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in the 1967 war with neighboring Arab countries, territories the Palestinians want for their future state. It annexed East Jerusalem in a non-internationally recognized movement and withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005. The Islamic militant group Hamas won parliamentary elections a year later and took Gaza from Abbas’s forces in a bloody struggle for power in 2007.
Israel has made various offers over the years that it says would have given Palestinians independence in most of the territories. But the Palestinians – still the weaker party in the negotiations – said every proposal did not grant them full statehood and address other fundamental issues, such as the plight of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.
Palestinian recognition of Israel was the basis of the 1993 Oslo Accords which launched the Middle East peace process. Talks ended more than a decade ago, and current Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett opposes the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, which is still widely regarded internationally. as the only way to resolve the conflict.
Abbas’s harsh rhetoric reflects widespread Palestinian frustration with the dying peace process. But it could also be seen as a way to polish his nationalist credentials at home, where he faces a backlash from Palestinians frustrated by his long rule and the increasingly authoritarian Palestinian Authority (PA).
A poll released this week found that nearly 80 percent of Palestinians want him to resign. Abbas’s presidential term expired in 2009, but he continued to lead the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Abbas annulled the first Palestinian elections in 15 years in April when it emerged that his Fatah party would suffer an embarrassing loss. He was largely sidelined during the 11-day war in Gaza in May, when support for his militant rivals Hamas soared.
The death of a prominent Palestinian Authority critic while detained by Palestinian security forces in June sparked widespread protests in which security forces beat and arrested several protesters.
But Abbas is still seen internationally as the representative of the Palestinian cause and an essential partner in the peace process. Its forces coordinate security with Israel, targeting Hamas and other militant groups that both see as a threat – a policy that has contributed to its unpopularity.
Abbas has already made veiled threats and is unlikely to follow through on the kind of drastic political move that would mark the end of the Palestinian Authority, which was created by the Oslo accords. His government also relies heavily on help from the international community, which remains committed to a negotiated two-state solution.