MAHMOUD ABBAS, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and President of the Palestinian Authority, said Palestinians had entered with sincere intentions into last September’s round of final status negotiations to reach a peace agreement with Israel. After talks broke down, the various ideas and proposals of many countries and parties had been positively considered. The Israeli Government had wrecked all those efforts and dashed hopes by refusing to commit to terms of reference for negotiations based on international law and United Nations resolutions, and by intensifying Israeli settlement building. Reports by United Nations missions, other institutions and civil society groups showed a “horrific” picture of the systematic confiscation of Palestinian land, construction of thousands of new settlements in the West Bank, particularly in East Jerusalem, and building of the annexation wall. Israel also continued to refuse permits to Palestinians to build in East Jerusalem, while issuing orders to deport elected Palestinian representatives from Jerusalem.
Israel was “racing against time” to redraw borders, impose a fait accompli that changed the reality on the ground and undermined the potential for a Palestinian State, he said. It continued its blockade on Gaza and attacks on Palestinian civilians there. In recent years, armed settler militias, who enjoyed special protection from the Israeli army, had stepped up attacks on Palestinian homes, schools, mosques, fields and crops. That policy would destroy chances for achieving a two-State solution, and threatened to undermine the structure of the Palestinian Authority and its very existence. New conditions imposed by Israel threatened to transfer the raging conflict into a religious one, threatening the future of 1.5 million Christian and Muslim Palestinians that were Israeli citizens — a matter which Mr. Abbas rejected and would not accept being dragged into.
“All of these actions taken by Israel in our country are unilateral actions and are not based on any earlier agreements,” he said. Rather, they were a “selective application of the agreements aimed at perpetrating the occupation”. In 1988, Palestinian leaders agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22 per cent of historical Palestine, on the belief that making concessions could partly correct the historical injustice against the Palestinians and pave the way for peace. But, since then, Israel’s settlement campaign had shattered every initiative and round of negotiations. Mr. Abbas confirmed the Palestinian people’s goal to realize their inalienable rights to an independent State and to achieve a just solution to the refugee problem, which required the release of political prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons without delay. He confirmed their commitment to renounce violence, reject and condemn terrorism, especially State terrorism, and adhere to all agreements signed between PLO and Israel.
“Here, I declare that the Palestine Liberation Organization is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference based on international legitimacy and a complete cessation of settlement activities,” he said. Palestinians would continue their popular peaceful resistance to Israel’s occupation, settlement and apartheid policies. In bringing its plight to the global podium, Palestine did not undertake unilateral steps. “Our efforts are not aimed at isolating Israel or de-legitimizing it; rather we want to gain legitimacy for the cause of the people of Palestine,” he said. “We extend our hands to the Israeli Government and the Israeli people for peacemaking. I say to them: Let us urgently build together a future for our children where they can enjoy freedom, security and prosperity,” he said, calling for “bridges of dialogue, instead of checkpoints and walls of separation”.
The Palestinian Authority’s two-year State-building programme launched in 2009 focused on strengthening the judiciary and security mechanisms; building administrative, financial and oversight systems; upgrading institutional performance; and enhancing self-reliance to reduce the need for foreign aid, he said. Months ago, the Palestinians had achieved national reconciliation based on the decision to hold legislative and presidential elections within one year. Recent reports of the United Nations, World Bank, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) described those accomplishments as a “remarkable international success story” and confirmed their readiness for an immediate, independent State. He did not believe that “anyone with a shred of conscience” could reject that bid for statehood.
It was no longer possible to redress the blocking of peace talks with the same means that had been repeatedly tried and proven unsuccessful. The crisis was far too deep to be neglected. Attempts to simply circumvent or postpone its explosion were even more dangerous. “It is neither possible, nor practical, nor acceptable to return to conducting business as usual, as if everything is fine,” he said. Negotiations without clear parameters, credibility and a specific timetable were “futile”, and would be “meaningless” as long as the occupation army on the ground continued to entrench instead of roll back.
“It is a moment of truth; and my people are waiting to hear the answer of the world. Will it allow Israel to continue its occupation, the only occupation in the world? Will it allow Israel to remain a State above the law and accountability?”, he asked. “There are either those that believe that we are not wanted in the Middle East or (those that believe) that there is a missing State that needs to be established immediately.” Alongside the Arab Spring, now was the time for the Palestinian Spring. “We have one goal…to be, and we shall be,” he said. He thanked States that had supported the Palestinian struggle and had recognized the State of Palestine, and those that had upgraded Palestine’s representation in their capitals. He also saluted the Secretary-General for saying a few days ago that the Palestinian State should have been created years ago. Such support made the Palestinians feel they were being listened to and that their tragedy was not being ignored. It also reinforced their hope for justice.
He then informed the Assembly that he had submitted to the Secretary-General an application for admission of Palestine, on the basis of the 4 June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, as a full United Nations member. “I call upon Mr. Secretary-General to expedite transmittal of our request to the Security Council, and I call upon the distinguished members of the Security Council to vote in favour of our full membership. I also appeal to the States that have not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so,” he said. The world’s support for that was a “victory for truth, freedom, justice, law and international legitimacy” and was the greatest contribution to peacemaking in the Holy Land.
In closing, he said: “I have come here today with a message from a courageous and proud people: Palestine is being reborn.” He implored everyone to stand with it.