Abbas tells UN it’s responsible for ending Israeli ‘apartheid’
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Abbas tells UN it’s responsible for ending Israeli ‘apartheid’

Palestinian leader says two-state solution in jeopardy; demands apology from UK over 1917 Balfour Declaration

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, September 20, 2017 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, September 20, 2017 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday told the United Nations that Israel is not a peace partner, and said its “colonial occupation” of the West Bank and East Jerusalem was breeding incitement and violence in the region.

In an address to the General Assembly, Abbas said the international community was responsible for putting an end to Israeli policies that “incite religious tensions and could lead to a violent religious conflict.”

“We are entrusted and you are entrusted to end apartheid in Palestine,” Abbas said in a nearly 45-minute speech.”Can the world accept an apartheid regime in the 21st century?”

“Has the international community surrendered to the fact that Israel is a country above the law?” he asked. “The continuation of the occupation is a disgrace for the international community.”

“There is no place left for the state of Palestine and this is not acceptable,” he said.

“The two-state solution is in jeopardy,” he said, warning, “We cannot as Palestinians stand still in the face of this threat.”

“Our choice is the two-state solution on the 1967 borders,” Abbas said, “and we will grant every chance for the efforts being undertaken by President Donald Trump and the Quartet and international community as a whole to achieve a historic agreement that brings the two-state solution to reality, enabling the state of Palestine with its capital East Jerusalem to live in peace and security side by side with Israel.”

The Quartet refers to the grouping of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union guiding the Middle East peace process.

Abbas said that failing the re-establishment of talks, he would continue to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood outside the framework of a peace process — a posture Israel has rejected repeatedly as sabotaging chances for peace.

In a first for a Palestinian president since the launch of the Oslo peace process in 1993, however, Abbas also suggested that the Palestinians might, in the face of the collapse of hopes for two states, agitate for full rights in a single state.

Likening Israel’s control of the West Bank to a “one-state reality,” Abbas warned that in the failure of a two-state solution, “neither you, nor we, will have any other choice but to continue the struggle and demand full, equal rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine. This is not a threat, but a warning of the realities before us as a result of ongoing Israeli policies that are gravely undermining the two-state solution.”

Abbas said withdrawing the Israeli presence from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, by contrast, would be a blow to Palestinian terror groups, which continue to call for the use of violence as a strategy of resistance.

Abbas went on to urge the British government to correct the “historic injustice” it inflicted on the Palestinian people by issuing the Balfour Declaration in 1917, a document that espoused London’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

The PA president criticized the United Kingdom for marking the 100th anniversary of the declaration, and demanded compensation.

Abbas also told the Assembly that Israel’s refusal to recognize a state of Palestine along the 1967 lines “put into question” its commitment to the Oslo peace accords signed in 1993.

“We recognize the state of Israel on the 1967 borders, but Israel’s refusal to recognize these borders has put into question the mutual recognition of the agreement signed in Oslo,” he said.

Afterwards, Israel’s UN ambassador slammed Abbas for his remarks, saying they “spread falsehoods” that “encourage hate.”

“Today’s lies and excuses have proven once again that the Palestinian leadership is a serial evader of peace,” Ambassador Danny Danon said in a statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, Abbas met with US President Donald Trump and, in a markedly more conciliatory tone than his UN General Assembly speech, expressed optimism of the US administration’s efforts to broker “the deal of a century” between the Palestinians and Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas listens while US President Donald Trump makes a statement for the press before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017, in New York. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

Abbas said the 20-plus meetings PA officials have held with US officials since Trump took office in January “gives us the assurance and the confidence that we are on the verge of real peace.”

Trump, in response, told the Palestinian leader that “we have a pretty good shot — maybe the best shot ever” at achieving peace in the entire Middle East. “I certainly will devote everything within my heart and within my soul to get that deal made.”

“Israel is working very hard toward the same goal, and I must tell you, Saudi Arabia and many of the different nations are working also hard,” Trump told Abbas. “So we’ll see if we can put it together. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.”

US President Donald Trump addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, September 19, 2017 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

Trump, who has made resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict one of the “highest priorities” of his presidency, failed to mention the decades-long dispute in his address to the UN a day earlier.

During his speech, Trump trashed the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program and dubbed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a “rocket man” on a “suicide mission.”

Also on Tuesday, Trump met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and told the Israeli leader that a regional peace deal would be a “fantastic achievement” and that “we are giving it an absolute go.”

In his own remarks to the General Assembly, Netanyahu said that Israel was ready for peace with Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. However, his commitment to the principle of “two states for two peoples,” expressed last year, was absent from his speech.

Netanyahu later hailed Trump’s remarks as the most “courageous speech” he had ever heard at the world body.

AFP contributed to this report.

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