Abbas issues ultimatum to Israel in harsh UN address
JERUSALEM — President Mahmoud Abbas gave Israel Friday a year to end its occupation on territories that the Palestinians desire for a future state. If Israel fails to recognize Israel, he threatened to withhold recognition. This was a keystone of the three decades of failed peace negotiations.
Abbas delivered the vague ultimatum in a long, prerecorded address to the U.N. General Assembly in which he accused Israel of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing,” explosive terms rarely employed by the 85-year-old leader, who has long been committed to a two-state solution.
“If Israeli occupation authorities continue to enshrine the reality of an apartheid state, as it is happening now, our Palestinian people will not tolerate such conditions,” Abbas stated. “Circumstances in the ground will inevitably impose full and equal political rights for everyone on the land of historic Palestine, within one State.” A one-state solution is popular among some Israeli and Palestinian activists. However, it would lead to the demise of Israel as a Jewish-majority country. This outcome is not supported by any major Palestinian or Israeli party.
Abbas spoke in front of a backdrop that showed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which is a holy spot for Muslims and Jews. Also, there were a series maps showing the area’s expansion over many decades of wars and conflicts.
He stated that he was open to negotiations on final borders in the next year, but that Israel would not end its occupation of territories it seized during the 1967 conflict. He said that he would reconsider Israel’s recognition.
“If that is not possible, then why continue to recognize Israel based upon the 1967 border?” Abbas stated. Abbas also threatened to confront Israel before the International Court of Justice.
Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. said Abbas had “proved once again that he is no longer relevant.”
“Those who truly support peace and negotiations do not threaten delusional ultimatums from the U.N. platform as he did in his speech,” Gilad Erdan said in a statement.
Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem in the 1967 conflict with Arab neighboring countries. These territories are what the Palestinians want to be their future state. It annexed east Jerusalem, a move that was not recognized internationally. Then it withdrew its troops from Gaza in 2005. A year later, the Islamic militant group Hamas won parliamentary election and took Gaza from Abbas’ forces in an unremitting power struggle in 2007..
Israel made many offers over the years, which it claims would have granted the Palestinians autonomy in most of its territories. The Palestinians, always the weaker party in negotiations, said that each offer was not enough to grant them full statehood or resolve other core issues like the fates of Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem’s status.
Palestinian acknowledgment of Israel was the foundation for the 1993 Oslo agreements that launched the Middle East Peace Process. Talks came to an abrupt halt over a decade ago. Israel’s current prime Minister, Naftali Bennett is against the creation of a Palestinian state along with Israel. This is widely considered to be the only way to end the conflict.
Abbas’ harsh rhetoric is a reflection of widespread frustration among Palestinians with the stalled peace process. It could also be interpreted as Abbas’ way to bolster his nationalist credentials back home, where he faces major backlash from frustrated Palestinians who are fed up with his long rule and the increasingly authoritarian Palestinian Authority.
A poll released this week found that nearly 80% of Palestinians want him to resign. Abbas’ presidency mandate ended in , but he continues to head the PA which manages parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Abbas canceled the first Palestinian elections in 15 years back in April when it appeared his Fatah party would suffer an embarrassing loss. He was largely sidelined during the 11-day Gaza war in May, when support for his militant Hamas rivals soared.
Abbas is still seen internationally as a representative of the Palestinian cause, and a key partner in the peace process. His forces coordinate security with Israel and target Hamas militant groups, which both consider a threat. This has led to Abbas’s unpopularity.
Abbas made previous veiled threats and it is unlikely that he will follow through with the type of dramatic political decision that would end the PA, which was established through the Oslo agreements. His government is dependent on the assistance of the international community. They remain committed to a negotiated, two-state solution.