We have not 'made a single mistake in our long journey'

‘Jerusalem is not for sale’: Full text of Abbas’s speech to UN General Assembly

Palestinian leader lambastes US leadership, rails against Israeli policies and warns Hamas of funding cuts in address

Adam Rasgon is a former Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)

Transcript of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 27, 2018.

Jerusalem is not for sale and the Palestinian people’s rights are not up for bargaining

In the name of God, the most merciful and beneficent

Excellency, Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinosa, President of the United Nations General Assembly, Excellency, Mr. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

We will remain believers in peace. We will maintain peace and we will arrive at our independent state through peace because God is with us, our issue is just, our people sacrificed a lot and you all are supporters of peace.

In these days last year, I came before you appealing for freedom, independence and justice for my oppressed people, who are suffering under Israeli occupation for more than fifty-one years.

I return to you today as this colonial occupation continues to suffocate us and to undermine our serious efforts to build the institutions of our cherished State, which this revered General Assembly recognized in the year 2012.

This year the Palestinian National Council, the parliament of the State of Palestine, convened and renewed the legitimacy of our national institutions through the election of a new leadership for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. This Parliament undertook important decisions, which oblige me to review the agreements, political, economic and security alike, that have been reached with the Israeli Government, and to also review the future of the Palestinian National Authority, which has been rendered without authority.

The Parliament also instructed me to suspend the Palestinian recognition of Israel until Israel recognizes the State of Palestine on the 4 June 1967 borders, and also instructed me to approach the international courts, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), to investigate Israel’s breaches of treaties and the Israeli occupying forces’ aggressions and settler terror against our people, our land and our holy sites.

We notice, as you notice, that Israeli settlers and even the Israeli army trample daily on the holiness of holy sites including the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Madame President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last July, Israel adopted a racist law that crossed all the red lines and called it the “Nation-State Law of the Jewish People.” This law denies the connection of the Palestinian people to their historic homeland and dismisses their right to self-determination and their history and heritage, as well as the United Nations resolutions relevant to the Palestine question and the agreements concluded with Israel. This law will inevitably lead to the creation of one racist state, an apartheid state, and nullifies the two-state solution.

Israel practices racism, but it enshrined its practice of it with this law.

This law discriminates against the Arab citizens in Israel, granting the right to self- determination exclusively to Jews in Israel and legislating discrimination against those Arab citizens, who constitute 20% of the population of Israel, in addition to other non-Jews who have immigrated to Israel. This law strips them of their rights as citizens.

At the least, five percent of Israel’s citizens immigrated from the former Soviet Union. They are not Jews; they are Muslims and Christians.

This law constitutes a gross breach and real danger, both politically and legally, and reminds us of the apartheid state that existed in South Africa. We therefore reject and condemn it in the strongest terms. We further call on the international community and this revered Assembly to act to reject it and condemn it as a racist, illegal law and deem it null and void, just as the United Nations condemned apartheid South Africa in several resolutions in the past, bearing in mind also that thousands of Jews and Israeli citizens have rejected and protested this law and 56 Knesset Members out of 120 voted against it because they believe it is a law of racist discrimination. Thus, I ask the United Nations to follow in the footsteps of part of Israel’s residents in rejecting this law.

Madame President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This racist law talks about what is called the “land of Israel”. Can you ask the Israeli government what exactly constitutes the “land of Israel”, what the “borders” of the State of Israel are? I challenge anyone to tell us what they are. Where are they? Where are the borders of the State of Israel?

This racist law constitutes another stigma on Israel and anyone who consents to it. This law is just like other Israeli laws that legislated the theft and confiscation of the land, properties and funds of the Palestinian people.

Madame President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have positively engaged with the various initiatives of the international community that have aimed at achieving a peaceful solution between us and the Israelis, including the Arab Peace Initiative, which was recognized by the Security Council in its resolution 1515 (2003). We continued on this path with the administration of President Trump from the start of his tenure, with the same positive engagement, and I have met with him numerous times on the summit level.

We awaited his peace initiative with utmost patience, but were shocked by decisions and actions he undertook that completely contradict the role and commitment of the United States towards the peace process. In November 2017, his administration issued a decision to close the PLO office in Washington, DC. He then announced his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and transferred his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and boasts that he has removed the issues of Jerusalem, refugees, settlements and security off the negotiation table. All such decisions threaten the Palestinian national cause and constitute an assault on international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. The US administration went even further in its assault by cutting assistance to the Palestinian National Authority, UNRWA and Palestinian hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem.

With all of these decisions, this administration has reneged on all previous US commitments, and has undermined the two-state solution, and has revealed its false claims of concern about the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people. It is ironic that the American administration still talks about what they call the “deal of the century”. But what is left for this administration to give to the Palestinian people? Humanitarian solutions?

When Jerusalem, refugees, security and other issues are removed from the table, what is left that can be provided to us as a part of a political solution for the Middle East?

And, the US Congress continues to insist on considering the Palestine Liberation Organization — which is recognized as the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by the overwhelming majority of countries of the world, including Israel — as a terrorist organization, at a time when the State of Palestine cooperates with the majority of countries of the world, including the United States, to combat terrorism.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at UN headquarters, Thursday, September 27, 2018 (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Why all this hostility against the Palestinian people that is suffering under an occupation supported by the United States of America? We say to them that our positions are clear. We challenge you if we have made a single mistake in our long journey. However, the Congress comes out the blue to say the PLO is a terrorist organization. How come? I do not know, but we have to listen.

For years, we have affirmed our readiness to the US administration to establish a Palestinian-American committee to examine the political and legal status of the PLO as a means of proving to them that the PLO is committed to achieving peace and combating terrorism, as well as to also demonstrate that Congress’ legislation regarding the PLO is arbitrary, unlawful and unjustified and deliberately ignores the official agreement with the US Government to combat terrorism, an agreement we have also concluded with 83 other countries.

I mean that we have protocols with 83 countries under the title of combating terrorism including the United States. But despite that, Congress calls us terrorists.

Despite all of this, and from this revered platform, I renew my call to President Trump to rescind his decisions and decrees regarding Jerusalem, refugees and settlements, which contravene international law and UN resolutions, as well as the understandings among us, in order to salvage the prospects for peace and to achieve stability and security for the future generations in our region.

(Holding up piece of paper) This is part of the understandings — a signed letter from the American administration. Between us and them, there are a number of matters. Now they have ignored all of them.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Consistent with our commitment to peace and the two-state solution and the path of negotiations to achieve them, a path we have never refused…I challenge anyone [to show] if we were ever asked to sit at the negotiations table and refused. On the contrary, we were asked more than once, from more than one country here — they said come sit together, you all and Netanyahu. We agreed every time. I challenge you if we refused one time or if he agreed one time.

Consistent with our commitment to peace and the two-state solution and the path of negotiations to achieve them, a path we have never refused, with a view to rescuing the peace process, I came before the Security Council on the 20th of February this year and presented an initiative calling for the convening of an international peace conference based on the relevant UN resolutions and the internationally endorsed terms of reference and parameters. Such a conference should involve broad international participation that includes regional and international stakeholders, led by the Permanent Members of the Security Council and the Quartet. We shall circulate this initiative in its entirety to you and hope you will support it.

Here, I must reiterate that we are not against negotiations and have never rejected negotiations, and that we continue to extend our hands for peace.

We only believe arriving at our issue through peace. We do not believe in violence and terrorism. We have said that many times. What is required from us? Negotiations based on international legitimacy? If international legitimacy from 1947 to this day is not respected and then they talk about solutions — which solutions?

Madame President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Peace in our region cannot be realized without an independent Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital and with all of its holy sites. There are many people who try to outsmart us. They say that your capital is in East Jerusalem — no, that is a manipulation of words, no — meaning Abu Dis, here or there and the areas surrounding Jerusalem. Our capital is East Jerusalem and not in Jerusalem. No one outsmarts us. Abu Dis and I do not know where — they say. No. East Jerusalem that was occupied in 1967 is our capital.

There is no peace otherwise. There is no peace with a state of temporary borders. They invented the state with temporary borders more than ten years ago — meaning that we will get a state but with unknown borders, like Israel which does not have known borders. And then afterwards, we will talk. No. A state with known borders and rights and we will live in peace beside Israelis. Without that, no. One hundred and thirty-eight countries and another country, Columbia, have recognized us. Now the number has grown to 139 countries. We ask these states. (Pointing at text of speech) I am going to complete my speech here.

Screen capture from video of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, September 27, 2018. (United Nations)

I thus call upon all the countries of the world that have not yet recognized the State of Palestine to accelerate this long-overdue recognition. I can no longer see a convincing reason for the continued delay of recognition of the State of Palestine by some countries. In this context, I wish to draw your attention to the fact that, in 2019, the State of Palestine will chair the Group of 77. By the way, ten minutes ago, we met in the other hall of the UN and President el-Sissi (of Egypt) announced that we were elected by 134 countries to lead the 77 group. Despite that, there are countries which say they recognize the two states, they recognize Israel, but do not recognize us. Why? What is the difference? As long as you recognize the State of Israel and the two states, why do you not recognize me? Are you complimenting someone? Are you walking alongside someone? No. We do not accept this logic. We say to these countries: Yes, you must recognize us. That does not mean we will not go to negotiations, but rather it strengthens the international political position for us to go to negotiations with your support. That recognition should not be unilateral because you recognize the two states simultaneously and call for negotiations. What is the difference?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I must remind you once again that Israel, the occupying power, has not implemented any single resolution of the hundreds of resolutions adopted by the Security Council. There are 705 General Assembly resolutions from 1947 until today and 86 resolutions from the Security Council from 1947 until today and not one resolution has been implemented. Israel has not implemented one resolution. And unfortunately I say in all honesty that Israel has done that with the support of the United States. How long will Israel remain outside the rule of law, fooling around and rebelling as it wants?

Madame President, Distinguished Representatives gathered here in this General Assembly,

We resist this colonial, settler Israeli occupation through the legitimate means created by this international organization. Peaceful, popular resistance. Is it forbidden? We will not use any other means. The settlers hit the Palestinian people with weapons and enter cities and villages with weapons.

We will reject and we reject the use of force and violence. We will reject all types of weapons. We will not accept the use of weapons in any other place. We hope the world will get rid of nuclear and traditional weapons.

Now, there is a problem with Khan al-Ahmar. Israel is insistent on destroying this village. It’s people have been there for more than 50 years. If the village is destroyed, the unity of the West Bank will be destroyed, dividing it between the north and south. Of course, that is what Israel wants. Do you agree to that? That’s what it wants. Also the coming assaults against the Al-Aqsa (mosque). Do you remember the past assaults against Al-Aqsa, which were stopped by popular, peaceful resistance? Now, they came to us and said the Israeli High Court will issue a ruling to divide Al-Aqsa in terms of space and time. Of course, we will not accept that. Many noble, dignified and peace-loving people will also not accept that. Israel must bear the consequences. This thuggery must stop. It is not acceptable that every day there is another decision.

We got a resolution on international protection from you because every day there are assaults and we do not have the ability to protect our people and ourselves. You passed a resolution to protect the Palestinian people. How? Who implements that resolution? Honestly it is also not enough that the General Assembly passes a resolution and then it is not implemented, like all other resolutions. The General Assembly must respect its decisions. I ask you to show us the path to implement this resolution. You must. This is your responsibility.

While we welcome all the economic and humanitarian support to our people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip through the legitimate Palestinian institutions, we refuse that this support be considered a substitute to a political solution. Our issue has many humanitarian elements, but without a political solution, we do not want the humanitarian matters. No one can take advantage of us and tell us they are helping us. We want the right to self-determination. Nothing more or less. There is no people that does not have the right to self-determination. Small and big peoples deserve the right to self-determination, even if it is one person. Why cannot we have this right? We are 13 million people in the world. Why are we not given the right to self-determination. That is not against anyone. Lets build our independent state and live side by side with Israel. What is wrong with that? Where is the mistake in that? Where is the crime in that?

We continue to exert genuine, serious efforts to end the division and to achieve reconciliation. Despite the many obstacles to achieving these aims, we continue to uphold our responsibilities towards our people.

We express our appreciation to our Arab brethren, in particular the fraternal Arab Republic of Egypt, for the efforts being undertaken to end this division, hoping that they will be successful.

Under Egypt’s patronage, we made a deal on October 12, 2017. The agreement is simple: The Palestinian government assumes its responsibilities in Gaza as it has in the West Bank. Then we build our state on the basis of one law, one authority, one system and one legitimate weapon. We do not accept a state of militias. They  (Hamas) did not agree to implement it. Until now, we have not received their approval of that.

In the next few days, the last round of dialogue will be held. After that, we will have another matter.

I would like to state the following: The Palestinian people who are a total of 13 million people — some do not see us as people. Why have we become a redundant people that should be done away with? We will not accept that. We will not tolerate it at all. And despite that, we are patient, and steadfast and believe in peace and the peaceful ways. But look at us like we are people and not a redundant people.

There are also agreements with the US administration, but why have they reneged on all of them? If they do not stop reneging on them, we will not remain committed to the parts that relate to us. If they do not commit to them, we will not commit to them. An agreement between two sides should be respected by both sides. I respect it from A to Z. If he does not respect it, I will not respect or commit to it.

I also add that the United States of America is considered a mediator. But now our view of the United States is that it does not have the right to be a mediator on its own. We have the Quartet. Add to that any country in Europe, Africa, Asia, America or the Arab world, if they would like. Welcome. As for America on its own. We no longer will tolerate is mediation because it is biased toward Israel.

Screen capture from video of the Palestinian delegation as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, September 27, 2018. (United Nations)

We have also concluded agreements with Israel and they have abrogated all of them. We call on Israel to stop abrogating these agreements or we will not abide by these agreements at all.

There is also an agreement between Hamas and us. We abided by it and our Egyptian brothers know that, but they have not abided by it. Therefore, from now on, we will not bear any responsibility. I ask you to understand what I am saying. We will not bear any responsibility if they insist on rejecting agreements.

Despite all that, we will not turn to violence or terrorism and we will continue to fight violence and terrorism in every place in the world. We will not accept any aggression against any state that recognizes us or not or loves us or not. We will not accept that it be attacked by international terror.

A very important point. The American administration said the number of refugees is only 40,000. O brother, how have you calculated 40,000? Ask UNRWA. Of course, they now do not want UNRWA. They want to get rid of it so that the refugee issues will end forever. The agency was established in 1949 to help refugees until their issue ends. Until now, their issue has not ended. From the 13 million of our people, 6 million are refugees. Not 40,000 as they say in the American administration. They are also abrogating facts. They calculate and decide to abrogate the agency and the world will listen to it. No. That will not happen.

Finally, I call on my people to remain steadfast and patient and to continue to make sacrifices in order to achieve independence, self-determination and a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

I pay tribute to our honorable martyrs and courageous prisoners. Israel considers them criminals. Why? It has thousands of people who have attacked everyone? They are heroes. Why is Rabin’s killer considered a hero and we, our group, is considered criminals who should not be paid? I salute our heroic martyrs and heroic prisoners.

I say to everyone that soon the dawn of freedom and independence will shine and occupation will go into the darkness of history.

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