Abbas at UN: End ‘settler terrorism’ and seize ‘last chance’ of peace

Prospects of accord are ‘bleak,’ PA president says at General Assembly. But he stresses he seeks a permanent deal and believes ‘the Israeli people want peace’

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UN General Assembly, September 26, 2013. (AP/Justin Lane/Pool)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UN General Assembly, September 26, 2013. (AP/Justin Lane/Pool)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday called prospects for peace “dispiriting and bleak,” and said the newly renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians appeared “to be a last chance to realize a just peace.”

At the same time, though, he expressed commitment to the peace process, and urged Israel to work with the Palestinians “to make the culture of peace reign, to tear down walls, to build bridges instead of walls, to open wide roads for connection and communication. Let us sow the seeds of good neighborliness.”

Delivering an address before the United Nations General Assembly, Abbas thanked the international community for allowing him to address world representatives “for the first time in the name of the State of Palestine.” He said that by recognizing Palestine as an observer state last November, the General Assembly “championed justice, right, and peace, and thereby affirmed … refusal of occupation, and stood for principles and ethics and on the side of peoples yearning for freedom.”

In a nod to Israeli concerns the previous year, the PA president said his drive to achieve international recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN was not “to delegitimize an existing State — Israel, but to consecrate the legitimacy of a State that must exist, which is Palestine.”

International recognition of Palestine, however, was no substitute for negotiations to yield a sovereign state, he noted.

Concerning peace negotiations restarted in July under the aegis of the United States, Abbas said the Palestinians were undertaking them “in good faith and with open minds, strong determination and an insistence on success.

“I assure you that we shall respect all of our commitments and foster the most conducive atmosphere for the continuation of these negotiations in a serious, intensive manner and provide the guarantees for its success, aimed at reaching a peace accord within nine months,” he claimed.

Abbas emphasized his government’s interest in a lasting, permanent agreement, rather than an interim solution, based on the 1967 lines and with redress for “the historic, unprecedented injustice that has befallen the Palestinian people in al-Nakba of 1948.”

“We reaffirm that we refuse to enter into a vortex of a new interim agreement that becomes eternalized, or to enter into transitional arrangements that will become a fixed rule rather than an urgent exception,” he said. “Our objective is to achieve a permanent and comprehensive agreement and a peace treaty between the States of Palestine and Israel that resolves all outstanding issues and answers all questions, which allows us to officially declare an end of conflict and claims.”

The Palestinian leader called the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians 20 years after the signing of the Oslo Accords “dispiriting and bleak” and said the “the great dreams” of his people were “shattered.”

“As much as we felt in those days that peace was at hand, we realize today how far we are away from it,” he continued, noting and condemning continued settlement construction and “near daily attack on the religious sites in Occupied Jerusalem, at the forefront of which is al-Aqsa Mosque, where the continuation of such attacks will have dire consequences.” He slammed what he called “terrorist attacks … perpetrated by settlers,” declaring that “708 terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by settlers against our mosques and churches, and against olive trees, farming fields and homes and property of Palestinians.”

The negotiations “require that the international community exert every effort to make them succeed,” Abbas said, and called on the international community “to condemn and stop any actions on the ground that would undermine negotiations — and I refer here, above all, to the continuation of settlement construction on our Palestinian land, particularly in Jerusalem.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry had announced Wednesday that peace talks would be intensified, with greater American involvement.

With a tone of urgency, Abbas said that “time is running out” for peace and that  “the window of peace is narrowing and the opportunities are diminishing.

“The current round of negotiations appears to be a last chance to realize a just peace. I am confident the Israeli people want peace” and that a majority support a two-state solution, he added. 

Echoing American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Abbas said, “Let us envision another future that the children of Palestine and of Israel enjoy with peace and security, and where they can dream and realize their dreams, a future that allows Muslims, Christians and Jews to freely reach places of worship; and a future in which Israel will gain the recognition of 57 Arab and Muslim countries and where the States of Palestine and Israel will coexist in peace, in order to realize each people’s hopes for progress and prosperity.”

“Our people wait for a day when its cause ceases to be a fixed item on the agenda of the United Nations,” Abbas concluded.

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