Last Updated: Sat Sep 24, 2011 08:45 am (KSA) 05:45 am (GMT)

Abbas, Netanyahu address Palestinian statehood bid in U.N. showdown

Mahmud Abbas (L) has handed over a request to United Nations chief to admit the state of Palestine as a full member while Israel urges direct negotiations. (Photo by Reuters)
Mahmud Abbas (L) has handed over a request to United Nations chief to admit the state of Palestine as a full member while Israel urges direct negotiations. (Photo by Reuters)

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Friday said Israel has “smashed against the rocks” all efforts to reach a peace deal explaining why he had pressed his bid for U.N. membership of his state.

In a statehood bid showdown at the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was extending a hand of peace to the Palestinian people, but accused its leadership of refusing peace efforts.

“I extend my hand to the Palestinian people with whom we seek a just and lasting peace,” Netanyahu said.

“The truth is that Israel wants peace, the truth is that I want peace,” he said, adding that “we cannot achieve peace through U.N. resolutions.”

“Let’s meet today in the United Nations,” he said in his address to the General Assembly

He said at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the Palestinians’ refusal to “recognize a Jewish state and any borders.”

“Recognize the Jewish state and make peace with us,” Netanyahu said as he addressed the UN General Assembly, brushing aside Palestinian claims that the core of the conflict was the settlement issue.

Abbas had handed over a historic request to United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon asking the U.N. to admit the state of Palestine as a full member, U.N. officials said.

Abbas told the U.N. General Assembly that Palestinians are ready to return to the negotiating table.

“All of these sincere efforts and endeavors undertaken by international parties were repeatedly smashed against the rocks of the positions of the Israeli government, which quickly dashed the hopes raised by the launch of negotiations last September,” he told the U.N. General Assembly.

Abbas: Palestine ready to return to negotiating table

“I say to the Israelis, come in peace,” Mahmud said, adding “our people will continue peaceful, popular resistance.”

Abbas also said that the Jewish settlements threaten a two-state solution and survival of the Palestinian authority.

The Palestinian president won huge applause and a standing ovation from some of the U.N. General Assembly as he entered the hall shortly after asking the U.N. to admit the state of Palestine.

He handed over the request in a folder with the Palestinian logo on the front in Ban’s meeting room. The U.N. secretary general opened the folder briefly to study it.

“Here I declare that the Palestine Liberation Organization is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference... and a complete cessation of settlement activities,” he told the U.N. General Assembly.

But he also sought to reassure Israelis: “Our efforts are not aimed at isolating Israel or delegitimizing it; rather we want to gain legitimacy for the cause of the people of Palestine.”

Israeli settlements to ‘destroy chance of two states’

Abbas said that Israel’s policy of settlements will “destroy chances” of a two-state solution to the decades-only conflict.

“This policy will destroy the chances of achieving a two-state solution upon which there is an international consensus,” Abbas told the UN General Assembly after submitting a request for Palestinian as a UN member state.

“We only aim to delegitimize the settlement activities, the occupation and apartheid and the logic of ruthless force, and we believe that all the countries of the world stand with us in this regard.”

Huge crowds began gathering into the main towns and cities of the West Bank on Friday as people turned out to support the Palestinian bid, AFP reported.

U.N. says Palestinian bid will be quickly handled

The Palestinian bid will be “quickly” handled and sent to the UN Security Council, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told AFP.

“The appropriate procedural reviews will be quickly undertaken in the secretariat and afterwards will be transmitted to the president of the Security Council and the president of the General Assembly,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the United States, one of the U.N. states opposing the Palestinian bid, urged Abbas to return to “direct negotiations” with Israel.

“When the speeches end today, we must all recognize that the only way to create a state is through direct negotiations. No shortcuts,” said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Israel says it regrets Palestinian move

Meanwhile, Israel said that it “regrets” the Palestinian request for statehood at U.N.

“We regret the step,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Gidi Shmerling told AFP. “We believe that the only path to true peace is through negotiations and not unilateral steps.”

Palestinians have to win nine of the 15 votes on the U.N. Security Council for their bid to go ahead, but the United States has already said it would veto any bid.

However, the Palestinians could then apply to the General Assembly to grant them status as a non-member observer state − also accorded to the Vatican.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that a U.N. Security Council vote was still “several weeks” away, allowing time to avoid a confrontation.

“There will probably be several weeks and these weeks can be used to develop the strategy,” Juppe told reporters.

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