While nodding to Lapid’s support for 2 states, Abbas says Israel is ‘ruining’ chances

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NEW YORK – In his United Nations address Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas noted the “positive development” of Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who expressed support for a two-state solution during his speech the day before. But he spent the bulk of his own remarks repeating complaints against Israel’s government and security forces for their treatment of the Palestinians, as well as the international community for failing to “protect” its people.

“When we hear something positive, we acknowledge it,” Abbas said, referring to remarks by both Lapid and US President Joe Biden in favor of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I heard them support the two-state solution and we are grateful for that.”

“But the real test of the seriousness and credibility of this position… is for the Israeli government to go back to the negotiating table immediately,” the PA president said, adding that Israel must cease all unilateral actions such as settlement building , demolition of homes, evictions and “killings”.

Israel “through its premeditated and deliberate policy is destroying the two-state solution,” he told the General Assembly.

“This proves unequivocally that Israel does not believe in peace,” he added. “That’s why we no longer have an Israeli partner that we can talk to.”

Expressing a willingness to revive the talks, he urged Israel: “You should at least temporarily stop [unilateral measures]… and if [the negotiations] fail, you can go back to whatever you want,” he said.

Much of the speech focused on blaming Israel for a host of alleged crimes he said it had committed during and since the establishment of the Jewish state, accusing it of running an “apartheid” regime against the Palestinians.

Abbas, 87, said Israel has been engaged in a campaign of land confiscation and gave the military “total freedom” to kill or otherwise use excessive force against Palestinians.

“This is the truth: they are an apartheid regime,” he said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds up a New York Times front page showing children killed in the Israel-Hamas conflict in May 2021 as he addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 23, 2022. ( (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/AFP)

He accused Israel of carrying out “50 massacres” – almost repeating a line that made him go around with. condemned in Germany last month when he accused Israel of committing “50 massacres, 50 holocausts” against Palestinians over the years. This time Abbas did not use the word “holocaust”.

“Israel has committed 50 massacres since 1948 until today,” he said. He said the latest of these “massacres” took place in Gaza during the May 2021 war, which Israel fought against Hamas. Abbas held up the front page of The New York Times, which featured pictures of the 67 children killed during the war. Israel protested the article at the time, saying Hamas had been responsible for many of those deaths.

Echoing an accusation made on the same stage this week by Jordan’s King Abdullah, Abbas accused Israel of “targeting” Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Israel denies the claim, saying the only religion that does not enjoy full freedom of worship in Jerusalem is Judaism, given that the status quo governing behavior on the Temple Mount prevents Jews from praying there. Critics respond that Israel has allowed the flashpoint status quo to erode and has sought to confiscate church-owned lands in the Holy City.

Abbas held up pictures of Israeli police attacking pallbearers and mourners during the funeral procession for slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Abbas again maintained that she was “deliberately” killed by an Israeli sniper and lamented the Biden administration’s refusal to prosecute those responsible, even though she was a US citizen. The US and Israel claim that Abu Akleh was likely killed accidentally by an Israeli soldier during a firefight sparked by an IDF raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin.

Banners depicting slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh hang on a building overlooking the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, on July 14, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

He accused Israel of “imposing falsified curricula” on Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem due to a recent conflict that has intricate capital.

Abbas has seen his popularity plummet over his continued cooperation with Israel and his refusal to hold elections for over 15 years. He insisted again on Friday that he is prepared to hold a vote immediately, but he cannot do so because Israel refuses to allow Palestinians in East Jerusalem to participate. However, analysts have maintained that the decision has more to do with fears of significant gains by the Hamas terror group at the expense of his Fatah movement.

The PA president pointed to his opposition to votes by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s council in 2015 to suspend recognition of Israel and end security coordination with the IDF, which Israel and the US credit for maintaining stability in the West Bank.

Abbas said that he has tried to stop the implementation of these resolutions in the hope that there would be a breakthrough in diplomatic negotiations with Israel. “We told them to wait a while and be patient [because] maybe they will change their attitude,” he recalled.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds up a graphic as he addresses the 77th session of the UN General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on September 23, 2022 (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

The PA leader did not go so far as to explicitly state that he would suspend the recognition of Israel, as he has previously threatened to do. However, he indicated that he would not be able to put off critics much longer and urged the international community to act.

Several times during the 47-minute remarks, Abbas pleaded with the international community to support his initiative for the Palestinian UN mission to be granted full UN member status. Since 2012, it has had observer status, which has allowed it to join international bodies, but which is largely symbolic in most respects.

The Biden administration has warned the PA against advancing the initiative, indicating it will use its Security Council veto to prevent a General Assembly vote.

Abbas suggested that the US position was unlikely to change, leaving him with few other options. However, he continued to protest the stance, saying that Washington’s support for a two-state solution was only in words and not in action. The United States “pretends[s] to uphold international law and human rights,” he said, later saying the United States and Britain were complicit in the Nakba — the Arabic word for disaster used by Palestinians to describe the establishment of Israel.

Meanwhile, Abbas said he would immediately apply for admission to several international bodies, including the World Health Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

This is likely to draw the ire of the Biden administration, given longstanding congressional legislation requiring the US to pull funding from UN bodies that accept membership from the Palestinians before there is a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the United Nations General Assembly is broadcast at the United Nations in New York City on September 23, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Before ending his speech, Abbas paid tribute to the Palestinian “martyrs” who gave “their blood” to the Palestinian cause and expressed full throttle solidarity with the “brave” Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli prisons.

“They are living martyrs… and we will not leave them until they achieve their freedom,” Abbas said.

He did not comment specifically on the stipends the PA provides to prisoners and their families, which Israel and the United States criticize as incitement to terror.

Abbas has privately told US officials for years that he is prepared to reform the policy, labeled by critics as “pay to kill.” However, no move to that effect has been announced, probably given the highly unpopular nature of such a move.

Lapid’s decision to give principled support for Palestinian statehood on the world stage marked a sharp shift from addresses over the previous five years by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who largely used the pulpit to rail against Iran and what he said was Palestinian rejectionism of Israeli peace efforts. In 2016, Netanyahu told the UN plenary that he was committed to a two-state vision, but he later retracted the comments.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid addresses the 77th session of the UN General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York City on September 22, 2022. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Lapid said that Israel had only one condition for becoming a Palestinian state: “That a future Palestinian state will be peaceful. That it will not become another terror base from which to threaten Israel’s well-being and its very existence. That we will have the ability to to protect the safety of all citizens of Israel at all times.”

“You can ask us to live according to the values ​​of the UN Charter,” he said, “but you can’t ask us to die for them.”

Lapid’s call for a two-state solution in his speech has drawn condemnation from the right wing of his governing coalition, as well as Netanyahu, who is currently the opposition leader and his main rival in upcoming elections.

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