UNITED NATIONS — The president of the United Nations General Assembly wore a scarf with the colors of the Palestinian flag around his neck on Tuesday while addressing a special session of the 193-member assembly to mark Palestinian solidarity day.
The UN’s “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” in marked annually on November 29, the anniversary of the United Nations recognizing the Partition Plan that called for the creation of the State of Israel and of an independent Arab state.
Donning the colors of the Palestinian flag as well as a black-and-white keffiyeh associated with Palestinians, Peter Thomson of Fiji, the president of the 71st Session of the General Assembly, said peace between Israel and the Palestinians was “fundamental to our efforts to realize the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and to ensure that they are able to enjoy lives of dignity, opportunity, prosperity, and equality.”
“However, the pursuit of peace has been mired by continuing terror attacks against civilians, and brutal acts of violence by both sides,” Thomson said. He did not note that the majority of the stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks that began last year — and have seen a significant drop in recent weeks — have been perpetrated by Palestinians.
The attacks since October 2015 have claimed the lives of 36 Israelis, two Americans and an Eritrean national. According to AFP figures, some 238 Palestinians, a Jordanian and a Sudanese migrant have also been killed, most of them in the course of carrying out attacks, Israel says, and many of the others in clashes with troops in the West Bank and at the Gaza border, as well as in Israeli airstrikes in the Strip.
In his remarks Tuesday, Thomson urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders “to deescalate tensions, to refrain from violence and provocations, and to avoid incitement and polarizing rhetoric that pushes peace further out of reach.”
He also issued a call to the international community “to redouble its efforts to support credible efforts to peacefully end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The UN General Assembly is set to consider six resolutions critical of Israel on Wednesday, including one that called on Jerusalem to resume peace talks with Syria and to withdraw from the Golan Heights.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon angrily rejected the resolution proposals, questioning whether “the Palestinians even want a state.”
“History tells us that the answer is no,” Danon said in his speech. “If the Palestinians really wanted peace, we could have had peace decades ago. The Palestinians reject every Israeli offer and every plan and respond with waves of violence and terror.”
During his speech Tuesday, Danon held up a New York Times front page from November 30, 1947, the day after the Partition Plan vote, which bore the headline: “Assembly Votes Palestine Partition,” “Arabs Walk Out… Disavow Any Partition Role.”
“This is the whole story,” said Danon, adding that “it is time to put an end to this lie, once and for all.”
“If you really want to show solidarity with the Palestinian people then end this charade, and demand that that the Palestinian leaders finally return to the negotiating table,” he added.
Earlier in the session, the UN’s Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said the admission of Palestine to the United Nations as a non-member Observer State in 2012 was a historic milestone, while acknowledging both the achievements and lost opportunities related to the conflict as he and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon near the end of their tenure this year.
Eliasson says the last 10 years can be described as “a lost decade” for Israeli-Palestinian peace-making and if the trend continues, a two-state solution could slip out of reach.
He noted Israel’s “legitimate security concerns, but said “holding another people occupied for half a century undermines the values and strength of your democratic society.”
“To Palestinian friends, I say: we recognize your legitimate grievances and the grave injustices you have faced. But nothing justifies terror, violence and incitement. And unity among Palestinians must be restored,” he said.
Speaking earlier Tuesday, Ban whose terms ends at the end of the year, told both sides that unless they act to revive hopes for peace, “they risk entrenching a one-state reality.”
Ban hailed a July report by the Middle East Quartet — the United Nations, European Union, Russia and the United States — as a blueprint for revived talks.