Abbas comes out swinging at the UN

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech at the United Nations where he accused Israel of committing war crimes in its assault on Gaza and called for the body to set a firm deadline for the withdrawal of all Israelis from the occupied territories.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has called on the United Nations security council to support a resolution setting a clear deadline for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories as he in effect declared the US-sponsored Oslo peace process over.

In a hard-hitting speech to the UN general assembly in New York, he also accused Israel of “war crimes carried out before the eyes of the world” during the recent 50-day Gaza war that ended in a ceasefire on 26 August, adding that Israel had “perpetrated genocide”.

“We will not forget and we will not forgive, and we will not allow war criminals to escape punishment,” Abbas declared. Palestinian officials were expected to start working with members of the security council to seek backing for a resolution setting a timeframe for the ending of what he called the “racist and colonial” occupation – a resolution certain to be opposed by the US.

In some of his strongest language to date, Abbas declared that the American-backed Israel-Palestinian peace process, which has dragged on for two decades, was dead, saying it was “impossible to return to negotiations”.

He said: “It is impossible, and I repeat – it is impossible – to return to the whirlwind cycle of negotiations that failed to deal with the substance of the matter and the fundamental question.

“There is neither credibility nor seriousness in negotiations in which Israel predetermines the results via its settlement activities and the occupation’s brutality.

“ There is no meaning or value in negotiations for which the agreed objective is not ending the Israeli occupation and achieving the independence of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital on the entire Palestinian territory occupied in the 1967 war.

“And, there is no value in negotiations which are not linked to a firm timetable for the implementation of this goal.”

Instead, he accused Israel of planning “ghettos for Palestinians on fragmented land, without borders and without sovereignty over its airspace, water and natural resources, which will be under the subjugation of the racist settlers and army of occupation, and at worst will be a most abhorrent form of apartheid”.

Abbas has long been seen as willing to let the US and Israel drag out the ‘peace talks’ that have enabled Israel to expand and entrench its occupation and his more aggressive stance at the UN has infuriated the US and Israel.

The official US reaction described the was comments as “offensive and deeply disappointing”.

State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “Such provocative statements are counterproductive and undermine efforts to create a positive atmosphere and restore trust between the parties.”

Abbas’s speech drew a furious response from senior Israeli officials, with foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman describing it as “diplomatic terrorism”.

However Abbas has still not taken the key steps to bring Israel before the International Criminal Court.

More and more people are coming to the conclusion that a two-state solution is increasingly untenable. Patricia Marks Greenfield is yet another person calling for a one-state, secular democratic nation.

The cut-off nature of the Gaza Strip means that, geographically, Gaza is, in reality, a part of Israel, while continuing Israeli settlement on the West Bank means that Israel has made itself part of Palestine. Gaza and the West Bank may be separated from each other, but they are not separated from Israel. Given this reality, Gaza and the West Bank must inevitably become part of Israel; there can be no two-state solution. And Israel must leave behind its official Jewish identity to acknowledge its multiethnic, multireligious character by providing equal treatment for all.

If Gaza and the West Bank were truly part of Israel, and Israel were truly a multiethnic, secular society, there would be progress toward peace. The “right of return” championed by Arabs would have new meaning: It would no longer mean the transfer of Israeli land. Instead it would mean the opportunity to live in Israel as fully equal citizens, with all of the privileges from and obligations to the Israeli nation. Internal equality and external peace are two sides of the same coin.

But this will be a hard sell. Jewish nationalists in Israel, like religious zealots everywhere, bitterly oppose the idea of secular states. They want their religion to be the ruling one, even if it leads to perpetual sectarian conflict.


  1. Holms says

    “diplomatic terrorism” -- perhaps the most idiotic oxymoron I have ever heard. Certainly, the Israeli officials continue to teach a masterclass in doublespeak.

  2. kraut says

    1…2…3…where is our resident zionist? You know, the one who want to nuke Iran, and would nuke the Palestinians too if he could do it without damage to any jew?

    “But this will be a hard sell. Jewish nationalists in Israel, like religious zealots everywhere, bitterly oppose the idea of secular states.”

    The other thing -- how do Palestinians feel about that? The experience of those Arabs living as citizens in Israel isn’t that positive either.

    “Arab citizens of Israel face entrenched discrimination in all fields of life. In recent years, the prevalent attitude of hostility and mistrust towards Arab citizens has become more pronounced, with large sections of the Israeli public viewing the Arab minority as both a fifth column and a demographic threat. There are glaring socioeconomic differences between Jewish and Arab population groups, particularly with regard to land, urban planning, housing, infrastructure, economic development, and education. Over half of the poor families in Israel are Arab families, and Arab municipalities constitute the poorest municipalities within Israel.”

  3. aashiq says

    Modi is cozying up to Netanyahu….a coalition with India, to continue to broaden global alliances and make the irritating Palestinian reality smaller.

    AIPAC has been coaching the Hindu lobby for a couple of decades now…

  4. nrdo says

    A single state would also require Hamas and numerous extremist Islamic groups to fully disarm and sign away their hopes of religious rule forever. It’s just not realistic right now because religious fundamentalists are too powerful on both sides. Without complete disarmament, the outcome of a single-state scheme would look more like Iraq than the United Kingdom.

    Could it work someday? Perhaps if the flow of propaganda and weapons could be significantly reduced. Right now though, I think it’s more the purview of ill-informed commentators who dislike Israel’s current configuration but don’t understand the lack of alternatives.

  5. says

    A single state would also require Hamas and numerous extremist Islamic groups to fully disarm and sign away their hopes of religious rule forever.

    Your attitude is typical of that which prolongs the conflict: you decide unilaterally who is required to do what, then state it as if it’s a fact handed down from on high.

    What is required is negotiation in good faith; the exact opposite of what you’re demonstrating.

  6. nrdo says

    @ Marcus Ranum

    I presume that you (correctly) opposed the invasion of Iraq because it was obvious that the pervasive armed militias would make it impossible to form a stable government.

    The same principle applies here. Disarmament isn’t “a fact handed down from on high”, it’s a practical necessity if you expect Israelis and Palestinians to live in a constitutional democracy without extremists blowing them up every day. Even Hamas, of all groups, has faced problems governing its mini-state in Gaza because of smaller terrorist cells firing “unauthorized” rockets.

    Personally I’m vociferously opposed to the occupation and Israelis who would negotiate in bad faith over Palestinians’ human rights. I’m just not blinded by anti-Israel bias into thinking that you can just expect peace because a piece of paper is signed. Treaties and constitutions are worthless without a responsible government monopoly on force.

  7. nrdo says

    Also, I should add that if Israelis were to form a single state with the Palestinians, any extremist Jews would also have to disarm and explicitly renounce the goal of making Israel a Jewish theocracy. I’d be ecstatic about that, but I’m not fooling myself by thinking it would be much easier than convincing Hamas to do the same ideological flip-flop.

  8. rq says

    I’m more for a two-state solution that allows both populations to live in peace from each other (as much as desired economically, etc.), and maintains the autonomy of both the Palestinian people, and the Israelis, with little-to-no direct influence of one’s politics on the other’s. (That is, Palestinians don’t make decisions for Israelis and vice versa.) Some disarming would be nice, too, on both sides but esp. Israel.
    I’m wondering how it would work if the Palestinian border is set where it was originally, including all Israeli settlements, and giving those Israelis the choice whether to go back to Israel, or remain in their settled homes as members of the new Palestinian state.
    (Probably terribly, I know.)

  9. nrdo says

    @ rq, In theory, I think it would be good for the Palestinian state to have a Jewish minority to ensure that it develops the legal mechanisms to protect minority rights. The PA has a poor record on human rights.

    But I acknowledge that the Palestinians have two valid arguments against it: (1) occupation by Israel has constrained their economy, so it would be unfair to make their nascent state financially responsible for communities developed without its approval and (2) Israel would threaten them militarily if extremists pick fights with each other in the settlements.

    The answer might be that instead of citizenship, Israelis (and ‘returning’ Palestinians) get a reciprocal residency status that lets them live and travel where they want as long as they’re unarmed and respect the law where they are.

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