In an unusually harsh speech, President Mahmoud Abbas gave Israel one year on Friday to end its occupation of the territories the Palestinians want for a future state. He threatened to withdraw recognition of Israel – the cornerstone of three decades of failed peace efforts – if he did not do so.
He delivered the vague ultimatum in a lengthy address to the United Nations General Assembly in which he accused Israel of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing,” explosive terms rarely used by the 85-year-old leader, who is long committed to a two-state solution.
“If the Israeli occupation authorities continue to anchor the reality of an apartheid state as it is today, our Palestinian people and the whole world will not tolerate such a situation,” Abbas said. “Circumstances on the ground will inevitably dictate an equal and comprehensive policy. rights for all in the land of historic Palestine, within one state.
A one-state solution, while popular with some Israeli and Palestinian activists, would spell the end of Israel as a predominantly Jewish state. No major Israeli or Palestinian party supports such a result.
Abbas spoke against a background showing the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a sacred holy site for Muslims and Jews, and a series of maps of the area showing Israel’s territorial expansion over decades of war and conflict.
He said he was ready to negotiate the final borders in the coming year, but that if Israel did not end its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories it had seized. of the 1967 war, he would then reconsider recognition of Israel. Israel annexed East Jerusalem shortly after the war, which is unrecognized internationally.
“If this is not achieved, why maintain recognition of Israel on the basis of the 1967 borders?” Abbas said. He also threatened to confront Israel in the International Court of Justice.
There was no immediate comment from Israel on the address, which was delivered after the country was closed for the weekly Jewish Sabbath.
Palestinian recognition of Israel was the foundation of the 1993 Oslo Accords which launched the Middle East peace process. Talks came to a halt over a decade ago, and current Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett opposes the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, which is still widely regarded internationally. as the only way to resolve the conflict.
Abbas’s harsh rhetoric reflects widespread Palestinian frustration with the dying peace process.
But it could also be seen as a way to polish his nationalist credentials at home, where he faces a major backlash from Palestinians frustrated by his long rule and the growing authoritarianism of his Palestinian Authority.
A poll released this week found that nearly 80 percent of Palestinians want him to resign. Abbas’s presidential term expired in 2009, two years after the Islamic militant group Hamas drove its forces from Gaza, leaving its authority confined to semi-autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Abbas annulled the first Palestinian elections in 15 years in April when it emerged that his Fatah party would suffer an embarrassing loss. He was largely sidelined during the 11-day war in Gaza in May, when support for his militant rivals Hamas soared.
The death of a prominent Palestinian Authority critic while detained by Palestinian security forces in June sparked widespread protests in which security forces beat and arrested several protesters.
But Abbas is still seen internationally as a representative of the Palestinian cause and an essential partner in the peace process. Its forces coordinate security with Israel, targeting Hamas and other militant groups that both see as a threat – a policy that has contributed to its unpopularity.
Abbas has already made veiled threats and is unlikely to follow through on the kind of drastic political move that would spell the end of the Palestinian Authority, which was created by the Oslo accords. His government also relies heavily on help from the international community, which remains committed to a negotiated two-state solution.
The Independent Gt