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Abbas to UN: Israel 'entrenching a system of apartheid' in the region

Sept. 20, 2017 9:31 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 25, 2017 9:53 P.M.)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly September 30, 2015 at the United Nations in New York (AFP/DON EMMERT/FILE)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly meeting on Wednesday night in New York, and stated that Israel’s half-century occupation would come to end through an independent Palestinian state or “equal rights for all inhabitants of the land of historic Palestine” -- referring to a one-state solution, which has gained support over the years among Palestinians and activists.

Abbas’ speech at the General Assembly slammed Israel’s half-century occupation of the Palestinian territory and the international community’s complicity in Israel’s “settler colonial process.”

Abbas said that Israel was “playing with fire” by attempting to change the historical integrity of religious sites in occupied East Jerusalem, particularly Al-Aqsa Mosque, where Israeli security restrictions fueled a two-week mass civil disobedience campaign among Palestinians in Jerusalem. Abbas hailed these protests for their peaceful organization.

He warned Israel not to transform their “political conflict” into a religious one by increasing tensions in East Jerusalem.

Abbas said that the Palestinians had “exerted all efforts to make peace with our Israeli neighbors,” but Israel has consistently rejected all initiatives. “Israel’s rejection of the two-state solution puts the entire region in jeopardy,” Abbas added.

The status quo in Palestine has “continued to deteriorate because of Israel’s continual violation of law,” Abbas said, adding that Palestine was running out of space to form an independent state owing to Israel’s relentless settlement building on Palestinian territory, considered illegal under international law.

While Abbas reiterated the need for a two-state solution, he noted that Israel’s rejection of the two-state solution risked “entrenching a system of apartheid” in Israel and the occupied territory.

He questioned the international community’s support of Israel in the context of widespread human rights violations, saying: “Apartheid was abolished in South Africa, but it’s still alive in Palestine. How is this acceptable?” -- referring to the international boycott and condemnation of the South African government during the years of apartheid.

“Freedom is coming. It is inevitable,” Abbas declared. “The occupation shall come to an end. It will be either through the independence of the state of Palestine or, if they wish, equal rights for all inhabitants of the land of historic Palestine, from the river to the sea.”

A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace given the existing political context, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.

Abbas demanded that the UN member countries recognize the state of Palestine, and urged them to support the two-state solution by only recognizing the state of Israel on its 1967 borders. "If you support the two-state solution, you cannot only recognize one of the states," he said.

In addition, Abbas demanded that the international community provide an exact time frame for the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, to implement Resolution 194 -- which guarantees the Right to Return to Palestinians who were made refugees during Israel’s creation in 1948, to provide international protection to Palestinians until the end of Israel’s occupation, and for the international community to end its complicity in Israel’s “settler colonial process,” suggesting they emulate the behavior of the international community during apartheid South Africa, which was in part based on an international boycott movement.

Addressing the besieged Gaza Strip, Abbas said that “there will be no state in Gaza. And there will be no Palestinian state without Gaza,” before expressing his “relief” regarding reconciliation efforts with Hamas in Cairo, when on Sunday Hamas pledged to dissolve its administrative committee, which runs Gaza independently of the West Bank.

Abbas said that Palestinian Authority (PA) officials would travel to the Gaza Strip next week to “take over responsibilities” and noted that general elections could take place in the future.

However, according to recent polls an election would most likely end in a loss for Abbas. A public opinion poll released by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research on Tuesday showed that two-thirds of Palestinians demand the resignation of Abbas and half of the public views the PA as a burden on the Palestinian people.

The poll further showed that if a new presidential elections were held today and only Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and Abbas were nominated, the former would receive 50 percent of the vote and the latter 42 percent of the vote -- compared to 45 percent each three months ago.

Furthermore, Abbas expressed hope that a “historic agreement” could be forged between Palestinians and Israelis with the help of US President Donald Trump, who has been attempting to spearhead the peace process in the region.

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump and Abbas met during the assembly and discussed political developments in the region, while Abbas reportedly expressed his confidence in Trump’s ability to mediate an agreement between Palestine and Israel.

According to Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abbas had reportedly said that Trump meeting with the Palestinian leader for the fourth time during Trump’s first term “proves the seriousness of Trump to achieve the deal of the century in the Middle East during this year or in the coming months.”

Abbas had also met with Secretary-General of the UN Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the assembly, where the two reportedly discussed the latest developments in the political process and intra-Palestinian reconciliation efforts.

Meanwhile, during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the UN General Assembly and following his own meeting with Trump, Netanyahu said that "Israel is committed to achieving peace with all our Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians," and said that he and the US president discussed the issue "at great length."

"I appreciate President Trump's leadership, his commitment to stand by Israel's side, his commitment to advance a peaceful future for all. Together, we can seize the opportunities for peace, and together we can confront the great dangers of Iran," he said.

Netanyahu also met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in New York Monday night, when Sisi reportedly told Netanyahu he thought an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord would create a new reality in the region, strengthening stability, and security throughout the Middle East.

Egyptian-mediated reconciliation talks with Abbas’ Fatah and with Hamas were credited with influencing Hamas' decision to dissolve its administrative committee and launch talks with the Fatah and the PA.
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