Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday condemned as “catastrophic” the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, which he said were killing hopes for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.
He said he would seek an upgrade to the Palestinians’ U.N. status to recognize it as a sovereign country and cautioned that Israeli settlement expansion meant time was running out for a two-state solution.
“Despite all the complexities of the prevailing reality and all the frustrations that abound, we say before the international community there is still a chance -- maybe the last -- to save the two-state solution and to salvage peace,” Abbas told the United Nations General Assembly.
But he warned the 193-nation assembly that Israel was “promising the Palestinian people a new catastrophe” if it continues with its current settlement policies in the occupied West Bank.
Abbas also demanded a U.N. resolution that would serve as a basis to end the deadlock in talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Developments over the past year have confirmed what we have persistently drawn attention to and warned of: the catastrophic danger of the racist Israeli settlement of our country, Palestine,” he said, noting “attacks by terrorist militias of Israeli settlers.”
“We are facing relentless waves of attacks against our people, our mosques, churches and monasteries, and our homes and schools,” he said.
“They are unleashing their venom against our trees, fields, crops and properties, and our people have become fixed targets for acts of killing and abuse with the complete collusion of the occupying forces and the Israeli government.”
Abbas also called on the Security Council to “urgently adopt a resolution comprising the basis and foundations for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that would serve as a binding reference and guide for all.”
According to the Palestinian leader, this is crucial “if the vision of two-states, Israel and Palestine, is to survive and if peace is to prevail in the land of peace.”
The Hamas government in Gaza denounced Abbas’s speech as “emotional”, saying it showed the 1993 Oslo peace accords had failed.
“It is clear that the speech announced the failure of the political program since Oslo,” Taher al-Nunu, a spokesman for the Hamas government said.
“The speech contained contradictions. He talked about the failure of the peace process and Oslo, and then called for the return to negotiations,” Nunu said.
“We repeat that it would be better for Abu Mazen to proclaim the death of the negotiations and of compromise,” he added.
One year later
One year after Abbas made his historic appeal to the U.N. General Assembly for Palestinian statehood, he returned with the more modest goal of seeing his territory given a kind of elevated non-member observer status.
His Israeli sparring partner, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposes even that goal while direct talks are suspended.
Abbas, meanwhile, plans to launch a campaign to see Palestine recognized as a non-state member within the border that existed before the 1967 Six Day War -- when Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.
The Palestinians see this as the basis for border negotiations with Israel on a permanent solution to their conflict, but Israel and its U.S. ally oppose recognition before the terms of the final deal are agreed.
“We want Palestine back on the map, on the 1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as its capital, carried by 150 to 170 nations,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told journalists last week.
The Palestinian leadership was formerly opposed to non-state membership, seeing this as a distraction and possible dead end, but their political clout has only diminished in the year since their initial bid.
Enhanced observer status would at least give them access to more agencies, such as the World Health Organization or International Criminal Court.
If it did come to a vote, the Palestinians would probably win a majority of U.N. members, but they have reportedly promised Washington not to push the issue too hard until after the Nov. 6 U.S. presidential election.
A State Department official confirmed Clinton had met Abbas late Wednesday in a New York hotel on the eve of his speech and that the question of a new U.N. observer status had come up.
“We have had conversations with the president on this topic,” the official said. “We have made very clear that our goal is to resume direct talks and that the idea of going to the U.N. is not the road that takes us there.”
Abbas was due to speak at around 1700 GMT and Netanyahu shortly afterwards.