Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas argued in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday that peace in the region would be impossible without a Palestinian state, as Israel-Saudi normalization is showing clear signs of moving ahead.
“Those who think peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full legitimate and national rights would be mistaken,” Abbas said, speaking in Arabic.
US President Joe Biden’s administration is actively engaging Riyadh and Jerusalem to try to broker a normalization deal between the two countries. As part of the framework, Saudi Arabia is also asking the US for a major mutual defense pact and significant arms deals, as well as Israeli concessions to the Palestinians that would be hard to swallow for some of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition partners.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Wednesday that “every day, we get closer” to his country normalizing ties with Israel, while clarifying that the Palestinian issue was still a “very important” component of the process.
Last week, Saudi leaders assured a delegation visiting from Ramallah that Riyadh “will not abandon” the Palestinian cause as it engages in negotiations.
Abbas used most of his UN address to blast Israel, accusing it of “entrenching apartheid.”
“This occupation violates the principles of international law and international legitimacy,” said Abbas, calling on the UN to implement its resolutions and usher in the birth of a fully independent Palestinian state.
He demanded an end to Israel’s decades-old military rule of the West Bank, and an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the pre-1967 lines, and with the refugee issue resolved in accordance with UN resolutions.
He called the current Israeli government “racist and right-wing,” accusing it of stealing money and resources and of holding the bodies of 600 Palestinian “martyrs.”
Israeli diplomatic staff walked out during the address, which came after Abbas drew withering criticism from many countries and individuals for an August speech in which he repeated a number of antisemitic canards he has uttered over the years, including that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had Jews slaughtered because of their “social role” as moneylenders, not because of enmity toward Judaism.
In his UN address, Abbas charged Israel with violating the sanctity of Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, and claimed that Judaism’s holiest sites, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, were exclusive Muslim holy sites.
He also accused the “Israel occupation government” of “feverishly digging its tunnels under and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque” atop the Temple Mount, which would cause an “explosion with untold consequences.” Palestinians have been voicing that theory for almost a century as a rallying call to defend the mosque, offering little evidence other than archaeological excavations led by Israel.
Wearing a key symbolizing what Palestinians call their “right of return,” Abbas asked why the UN remains silent about Israel’s violations instead of sanctioning the Jewish state as other countries have been. He accused the UN of “double standards” in Israel’s favor, treating it as above the law.
He pledged that the PA would continue its campaign against Israel in international fora.
“In light of the deadlock due to Israel’s policies,” Abbas asked the UN secretary-general to convene an international peace conference that could be the “last opportunity” to salvage the two-state solution.
Abbas called for apologies and reparations from Israel, and from the US and the UK for supporting the 1917 Balfour Declaration issued by the British government declaring support for a “national home” for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.
In his August speech, Abbas spoke about the Balfour Declaration in similar terms.
“Who invented the [Jewish] state? It was Britain and America, not just Britain,” he claimed in that earlier speech. “I am saying this so that we know who we should accuse of being our enemy, who has harmed us, took our homeland away, and gave it to the Israelis or the Jews.”
Abbas continued his UN address on Thursday by asking for international protection from “terrorist Israeli settlers” and IDF forces.
He also said it was necessary to call on member states to recognize the State of Palestine, and for it to be admitted as a full UN member. He said Israel has not adhered to its conditions for acceptance to the UN, and asked the UN to take “deterrent measures” against Israel until it fulfills UN resolutions.
Abbas insisted that the Palestinians would continue what he called their “peaceful, popular resistance” against a “colonial occupation” that does not believe in peace.
He also blamed the Israeli state for the spate of violent crime in the country’s Arab community, which has seen a sharp spike this year.
He placed responsibility on the Israeli government, as well, for the fact that the Palestinians have not held elections since 2006, claiming it was obstructing elections by keeping East Jerusalemites from voting, since it doesn’t allow any signs of Palestinian sovereignty in the capital. He said he would use international bodies to compel Israel to “allow” Palestinian elections, which many observers say Abbas doesn’t hold because his Fatah party would lose to the Hamas terror group.
Abbas spoke at length of the 1948 “Nakba” — the Palestinian term for the “catastrophe” that befell them with the creation of the State of Israel. He said the Palestinian narrative has been deliberately distorted by “Zionist and Israeli propaganda.”
“My message today to the Israelis is that this hideous occupation imposed on us will not last,” he said. “The Palestinian people will remain on their land.”
Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan lambasted the speech, saying in a video recorded from the General Assembly floor that “President Abbas proved today that he is not a partner for peace,” and calling the PA leader “irrelevant.”
After the address, Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli wrote that Abbas was “one of the leading and most dangerous Holocaust deniers in the world, who’s [sic] main priority is funding terrorists who brutally murder innocent women and children.”