World

While nodding at Lapid’s backing of 2 states, Abbas says Israel ‘destroying’ chances

NEW YORK – In his UN address Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas noted the “positive development” of Prime Minister Yair Lapid who, in his speech the previous day, expressed support for a two-state solution. But he spent most of his own comments reiterating grievances against the Israeli government and security forces for their treatment of the Palestinians and the international community for failing to “protect” his people.

“When we hear something positive, we recognize it,” Abbas said, referring to comments by both Lapid and US President Joe Biden in favor of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I heard they support the two-state solution and we are grateful for that.”

“But the real test of the seriousness and credibility of this position…is that the Israeli government will immediately go back to the negotiating table,” the PA president said, adding that Israel must stop all unilateral actions such as settlement building, house demolitions, etc. to strike. , evictions and ‘murders’.

Israel “through its premeditated and deliberate policies is destroying the two-state solution,” he told the General Assembly.

“This proves unequivocally that Israel does not believe in peace,” he added. “That’s why we no longer have an Israeli partner to talk to.”

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He expressed his willingness to revive the negotiations and urged Israel: “You should at least temporarily stop [unilateral measures]… and if [the negotiations] If you fail, you can go back to whatever you want,” he said.

Much of the speech focused on criticizing Israel for a host of alleged crimes it claimed to have committed during and since the Jewish state’s founding, accusing it of operating an “apartheid regime” against the Palestinians.

Abbas, 87, said Israel is engaged in a campaign of land confiscation and gave the military “total freedom” to kill Palestinians or otherwise use excessive force.

“This is the truth: they are an apartheid regime,” he said.

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds up a front page of the New York Times showing children killed in the May 2021 Israel-Hamas conflict as he attends the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Nations address in New York on Sept. 23, 2022. (Michael M. Santiago /Getty Images/AFP)

He accused Israel of carrying out “50 massacres” – almost repeating a line that roundly condemned him in Germany last month when he accused Israel of committing “50 massacres, 50 holocausts” against Palestinians over the years. This time, Abbas did not use the word “holocaust.”

“Israel has committed 50 murders since 1948 and to this day,” he said. He said the most recent of those “massacres” took place in Gaza during the May 2021 war that Israel fought against Hamas. Abbas held up the front page of The New York Times, featuring photos of the 67 children who had died during the war. Israel protested the article at the time, saying that Hamas was responsible for many of those deaths.

Following an accusation made this week on the same podium by Jordan’s King Abdullah, Abbas accused Israel of “targeting” the Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Israel rejects the claim, saying that the only religion that does not enjoy complete freedom of worship in Jerusalem is Judaism, as the status quo governing behavior on the Temple Mount prohibits Jews from praying there. Critics respond that Israel has allowed the status quo to be eroded at the flashpoint and has attempted to confiscate ecclesiastical lands in the holy city.

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Abbas held up photos of Israeli police attacking porters and mourners during the funeral procession of murdered Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Abbas again claimed she was killed “deliberately” by an Israeli sniper and deplored the Biden administration’s refusal to prosecute those responsible, even though she was a US citizen. The US and Israel allege that Abu Akleh was likely accidentally killed by an Israeli soldier during a firefight sparked by an IDF attack in the Palestinian city of Jenin.

On July 14, 2022, banners depicting slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh hang from a building overlooking the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the West Bank. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

He accused Israel of “imposing falsified curricula” on Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem, which is having a profound effect on a recent conflict that has embroiled the capital.

Abbas has seen his popularity plummet due to his continued association with Israel and his refusal to hold elections for more than 15 years. He again urged Friday that he is willing to vote immediately but cannot do so because Israel refuses to allow Palestinians in East Jerusalem to participate. However, analysts have maintained that the decision has more to do with fears of significant profits by the Hamas terror group at the expense of its Fatah movement.

The PA president noted his objection to votes by the Palestinian Liberation Organization council in 2015 to suspend recognition of Israel and end security coordination with the IDF, which credit Israel and the US for maintaining stability on the West Bank.

Abbas said he has tried to delay implementation of those resolutions in hopes of a breakthrough in diplomatic negotiations with Israel. “We told them to wait and be patient [because] maybe they’ll change their point of view’, he recalls.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds up a picture as he addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on Sept. 23, 2022 (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

The PA leader did not go so far as to explicitly state that he would suspend recognition of Israel, as he has threatened to do in the past. However, he indicated that he would not be able to hold back critics much longer and called on the international community to take action.

Several times during the 47-minute remarks, Abbas pleaded with the international community to support his initiative for the UN Palestinian mission to gain full member status at the UN. Since 2012, it has had observer status, which allows it to join international organizations, but which is largely symbolic in most respects.

The Biden administration has warned the PA not to promote the initiative and indicates it would use its Security Council veto to avoid a vote in the General Assembly.

Abbas suggested that the US position was unlikely to change, leaving him with few other options. However, he continued to object to the position, saying Washington’s support for a two-state solution was only in words and not in deeds. The US “pretend”[s] to uphold international law and human rights,” he said, later saying that the US and UK were complicit in the Nakba — the Arabic word for catastrophe used by Palestinians to describe Israel’s settlement.

In the meantime, Abbas said he would immediately apply for authorization from several international bodies, including the World Health Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

This is likely to fuel the anger of the Biden administration, given long-standing congressional legislation requiring the US to obtain funding from UN bodies that accept Palestinians’ membership before a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is achieved.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the UN General Assembly is broadcast at the UN in New York City, Sept. 23, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Before finishing his speech, Abbas paid “tribute to the Palestinian “martyrs” who gave “their blood” to the Palestinian cause, and expressed his full solidarity with the “brave” Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli prisons.

“They are living martyrs… and we will not leave them until they have achieved their freedom,” Abbas said.

He did not specifically comment on the allowances the PA gives to prisoners and their families, which Israel and the US denounce as incitements to terror.

Abbas has privately told US officials for years that he is willing to reform policies criticized by critics as “pay-to-slay.” However, no steps to that effect have been announced, probably given the highly unpopular nature of such a move.

Lapid’s decision to support the Palestinian state on the world stage marked a sharp shift from the speeches made over the past five years by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who largely used the pulpit to speak out against Iran and what he said was Palestinian was rejection of Israeli peace efforts. In 2016, Netanyahu told the UN plenum that he was committed to a two-state vision, but later rejected the comments.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York City on Sept. 22, 2022. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Lapid said Israel had only one condition for a Palestinian state: “That a future Palestinian state will be a peaceful one. That it will not become another terror base from which the welfare and survival of Israel is threatened. That we will be able to protect the security of all citizens of Israel at all times.”

“You can ask us to live by the values ​​in the UN Charter,” he said, “but you cannot ask us to die for them.”

Lapid’s call for a two-state solution in his speech has led to condemnation from the right wing of his governing coalition, as well as Netanyahu, who is currently the opposition leader and his main rival in the upcoming elections.

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