Abbas at UN: Return to negotiations with Israel impossible

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) said on Friday, that a return to direct negotiations was impossible and accused Israel of committing genocide in his speech at the United Nations during the 69th annual General Debate. Speaking a day after he said that the speech would unveil a new way forward for the Palestinian cause, Abbas slammed Israel for having predetermined the result of the negotiations process so far.

Palestinian President Abbas at UN on Friday (Photo: Telesur)

Palestinian President Abbas at UN on Friday (Photo: Telesur)

Abbas had promised to submit a resolution to call for a timeline for the end of the Israeli occupation, but his speech offered few new ideas and even fewer strategies. “The coming resolution will be based on UN General Assembly resolution 194 with added elements from the more recent Arab Peace Initiative,” he said, stressing that there would be little new in the resolution.

He also told the United Nations that “the hour of independence for Palestine has arrived,” adding: “There is an occupation that must end now. There is a people that must be freed immediately.” Abbas, however, did not set a deadline for fast-tracking to Palestinian statehood, after aides suggested they were eying 2017 as the year for Palestine to be born. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, earlier this month said the Palestinians would be seeking a three-year deadline for achieving statehood.

Abbas also said that the Palestinians “would not be making concessions at the expense of (their) rights,” stressing that they want an end to the Israeli occupation and the achievement of the two-state solution on the 1967 borders. Abbas also accused Israel of waging a “war of genocide” in Gaza and vowed to seek war crimes prosecutions. The 50-day Israeli assault on in Gaza – the third war on the Gaza Strip in six years – killed more than 2,150 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

“Israel has chosen to make it a year of a new war of genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people,” he said. “We will not forget and we will not forgive, and we will not allow war criminals to escape punishment,” Abbas said in a speech to the UN General Assembly.

The war in Gaza was “a series of absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world,” he said, citing the unprecedented destruction left behind and the deaths of children.

More than 460 children were killed in the violence, according to UNICEF, including in the Israeli shelling of UN-run shelters that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described as a violation of international humanitarian law.

The Palestinians have threatened to join the Hague-based International Criminal Court to allow legal action to be taken against Israel. However, critics – especially Hamas – have accused Abbas of “stalling,” and in recent weeks it has become clear that Abbas planned to halt any attempt to do so in order to push forward his own peace initiative. In his address to the 193-nation Assembly, Abbas asserted that years of negotiations had failed, accusing Israel of forging ahead with settlements and maintaining a blockade of Gaza despite formal pledges of peace.

“The future proposed by the Israeli government for the Palestinian people is at best isolated ghettos for Palestinians on fragmented lands,” Abbas said. “At worst it will be a most abhorrent form of apartheid,” he warned, referring to the racist regime that ruled South Africa until free elections in 1994. Abbas said a resolution backed by Arab countries would be presented to the UN Security Council to re-launch talks with a view to reaching a final settlement with Israel on the two-state solution.

It remained unlikely that such a resolution would garner support within the 15-member council, notably from the United States, which has repeatedly vetoed resolutions seen as undermining Israel. The council has been trying for weeks to unite behind a draft resolution seeking to shore up a ceasefire accord in Gaza, raven by divisions over the terms for a sustainable peace.

Extreme-right Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Friday that Abbas’ remarks before the UN General Assembly in New York showed him to be “Yasser Arafat’s successor in other ways.” “Abu Mazen complements Hamas in that he is preoccupied with diplomatic terrorism and slanderous claims against Israel,” he said. “As long as Abu Mazen is chairman of the Palestinian Authority, he will lead to a continuation of the conflict. Abu Mazen has once again proven that he is not a man of peace, but rather a successor to Yasser Arafat in other ways.”

In response to Abbas’ threat to unilaterally seek UN Security Council approval for statehood, Likud MK Danny Danon urged the government to annex the Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Also the United States said on Saturday that President Abbas’ speech at the UN was “counterproductive” towards reaching peace with Israel. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the speech was “provocative” and that the US rejects the contents of the speech. President Barack Obama will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a meeting on Wednesday to discuss Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians, the situation in Gaza, Iran nuclear talks, and the fight against Islamic State militants, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Friday.