Envoy protests map with West Bank, Gaza as part of Israel

Palestinian officials fume after Netanyahu UN speech, call address ‘arrogant, racist’

Mahmoud al-Habash, an adviser to Abbas, charges Israeli PM’s speech ‘full of lies and contradictions,’ says there can be no regional stability when Palestinians rights violated

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 22, 2023, at United Nations headquarters. (AP/Mary Altaffer)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 22, 2023, at United Nations headquarters. (AP/Mary Altaffer)

A senior Palestinian Authority official tore into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech earlier Friday at the United Nations General Assembly, calling the address “arrogant” and “racist.”

“The prime minister of the occupation government, Benjamin Netanyahu, did not surprise us with his speech at the United Nations, which was, as usual, an arrogant and racist speech to a disgusting degree — full of lies and contradictions [about] all the facts,” Mahmoud al-Habash told The Times of Israel.

Habash serves as the supreme Sharia judge of the PA and as an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas for religious affairs and Islamic relations.

“The prime minister of the occupation government has used the method of lying over and over until people believe you; then continue lying until you believe yourself,” Habash said. “This method has become shamefully exposed before the international community and there is no longer anyone who believes these lies and distortions of facts, to the point that the United Nations hall was completely empty during his speech because the world is no longer able to hear the torrent of lies, arrogance and disconnection from reality that Netanyahu lives in,” he continued.

In his speech Friday, Netanyahu touted the prospects for a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia, saying Israel was “at the cusp” of a historic peace agreement with Riyadh, which he predicted would transform the Middle East.

The hall was largely empty on what was the last morning of the gathering Friday, but in another encouraging sign for Netanyahu, a lone Saudi official wearing a black head covering sat listening to the entire speech. The address came two days after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman struck an optimistic tone about the prospects of an agreement, telling Fox News that “every day we get closer” to Saudi Arabia normalizing ties with Israel.

A Saudi diplomat listens to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2023. (Prime Minister’s Office)

On Friday, UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed hailed the Saudi crown prince’s remarks, more than three years after the UAE signed onto the US-brokered Abraham Accords that secured normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.

“The broadcast interview with my brother Mohammed bin Salman was a testament to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s remarkable transformation and long record of achievement,” tweeted bin Zayed. “United by our shared success story, the UAE and Saudi Arabia stand together in empowering generations to come.”

In his speech Friday, Netanyahu also turned to the prospect of peace with the Palestinians and sought to present himself as a would-be peacemaker who has run up against Palestinian obduracy.

“I’ve long sought to make peace with the Palestinians,” he said. While stressing that he believes in peace with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said they “must not have a veto” over peace with Arab states. He argued that making peace with more Arab countries will push the Palestinians to make peace with Israel.

“When the Palestinians see that most of the Arab world has reconciled itself to the Jewish state, they too will be more likely to abandon the fantasy of destroying Israel and finally embrace the path of genuine peace with it,” he said.

Prime Minister of the State of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2023 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images via AFP)

“But there is a caveat,” he said. “Peace can only be achieved if it is based on truth. It cannot be based on lies. It cannot be based on endless vilification of the Jewish people.”

He also blasted Abbas for “spreading the horrible antisemitic conspiracies against the Jewish people and the Jewish state.” Noting Abbas’s antisemitic speech last month, he said, “I mean, he recently said that Hitler wasn’t an antisemite. You can’t make this up. But he did. He said that.”

He added that the PA must stop glorifying terrorists and stop the ghoulish practice of giving money to Palestinian terrorists for killing Jews. “It must stop, for peace to prevail.”

In his own speech before the UNGA on Thursday, Abbas said peace in the region would be impossible without a Palestinian state, amid talks of Israel-Saudi normalization. He used most of his UN address to blast Israel, accusing it of “entrenching apartheid.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Habash told The Times of Israel Friday that “the clear truth is what [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas said in his speech [on Thursday] that whoever thinks that peace can be achieved in the Middle East without the Palestinian people obtaining their legitimate national rights… is delusional.”

Habash added that there can be no regional stability as long as the rights of the Palestinians are violated.

Palestinian Ambassador to Germany Laith Arafeh took issue with Netanyahu for brandishing a map of the Middle East in his UNGA speech that showed the West Bank and Gaza as part of Israel.

“No greater insult to every foundational principle of the United Nations than seeing Netanyahu display before the UNGA a ‘map of Israel’ that straddles the entire land from the river to the sea, negating Palestine and its people, then attempting to spin the audience with rhetoric about ‘peace’ in the region, all the while entrenching the longest ongoing belligerent occupation in today’s world,” Arafeh tweeted.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu uses a red marker on a map of ‘The New Middle East’ as he addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (AP/Richard Drew)

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani lambasted Israel in his UN General Assembly address on Tuesday, claiming that Jerusalem “responds to Arab peace and normalization initiatives with more nationalist and ultra-Orthodox intransigence and extremism… [as] reflected in government coalitions and further settlement expansion, in addition to the Judaization of Jerusalem, attacks on the holy sites and heavy-handed and draconian measures against the people in Gaza.”

Al Thani blasted the “intransigence of the Israeli occupation and the rejection by consecutive Israeli governments of any just political solution according to international legitimacy.”

Qatar has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of normalizing relations with Israel.

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