Final stages called for MidEast peace
At the UN General Assembly: Bibi explains the nuclear physics of hot air balloons to the delegates above, and
below, his latest offer of where Palestinians can live
Palestinian president says ‘settler terrorists’ have carried out 535 attacks against Palestinians since the beginning of the year; PA will seek UN recognition as ‘non-member state.’
By Barak Ravid, Chemi Shalev and Reuters, Ha’aretz
September 27, 2012
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday that his government would seek non-member status for Palestine, but he warned that Israel was “promising the Palestinian people a new Nakba” if it continues with its current settlement policies in the occupied West Bank.
Nakba is the term used by Palestinians to refer to the “catastrophe” of the 1948 war over Israel’s declaration of independence, during which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced or made refugees.
Over the past few months, Abbas said, “attacks by terrorist militias of Israeli settlers have become a daily reality, with at least 535 attacks perpetrated since the beginning of the year.” He added that Israel had demolished 510 Palestinian structures over the past 12 months, displacing some 770 Palestinians from their homes.
“We are facing relentless waves of attacks against our people, our mosques, churches and monasteries, and our homes and schools; they are unleashing their venom against our trees, fields, crops and properties, and our people have become fixed targets for acts of killing and abuse with the complete collusion of the occupying forces and the Israeli government,” he said.
He blamed the attacks on Israeli government policy, which he said supports settlements and occupation and creates a “racist climate” and a “culture of incitement.” He also accused Israel of committing war crimes, including “murder, torture and abuse of peaceful civilians.”
Israel’s actions, said Abbas, show that it rejects the two-state solution.
However, he said, the Palestinians remain committed to peace and non-violence. “We realize that progress towards making peace is through negotiations between the PLO and Israel,” he said.
“Despite all the complexities of the prevailing reality and all the frustrations that abound, we say before the international community there is still a chance – maybe the last – to save the two-state solution and to salvage peace,” Abbas said.
Noting the PA’s aborted attempt to gain UN Security Council recognition as an independent state last year, which he said was foiled by “a major and hostile uproar,” he said he would seek a General Assembly resolution declaring Palestine a non-member state during the current session.
At last year’s General Assembly, Abbas attempted to win full membership to the world body. However, that application failed to win enough support in the UN Security Council. The Palestinians did win membership last year to UNESCO, the Paris-based UN cultural agency, despite the objections of Israel and the U.S.
Guardian running blog from UN General Assembly, New York
September 27, 2012
Guardian Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood picks up on Netanyahu’s characterization of militant Islam as a medieval throwback full of “darkness, fanaticism and conspiracy”:
It’s hard to imagine President Obama appreciating Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s reincarnation as a primary school science teacher, showing his dimwitted class a diagram of a nuclear bomb in order to illustrate exactly where the US should set a “red line” for Iran. Netanyahu rammed home with a thick red line drawn across the 90% threshold of enriched uranium, a point he said could be reached next summer. It was an unexpectedly specific statement.
Netanyahu preceded this with his familiar theme that “the hour is getting late, very late” and only a clear red line could stop Iran’s aggression. Sanctions and diplomacy simply didn’t cut it, he said.
The other notable aspect of Netanyahu’s speech was his characterisation of the rise of Islamism in the Middle East as “the forces of medievalism” complete with references to darkness, fanaticism and conspiracy.
The Israeli leader dismissed the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s address, delivered minutes earlier, as a “libellous speech”. Unilateral declarations of statehood were wrong, he said. The two sides had to sit together to negotiate and reach a compromise, in which a demilitarised Palestinian state recognised a Jewish state, he said.
That will be greeted with cynicism by those who believe it is his government that has consistently evaded any meaningful negotiations over the past two years.
Guardian Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood takes a closer look at Abbas’ call for a “new approach” to peace:
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called for a “new approach” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but failed to offer anything fresh.
His speech was largely an exposition of the plight of the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation and facing “relentless” violent attacks from hardcore settlers in the West Bank. He accused Israel of a “campaign of ethnic cleansing” in Jerusalem, and said the policies of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu were fueling extremism and threatening the prospects of a peaceful two state solution. He reiterated the Palestinian leadership’s commitment to non-violence, instead calling for peaceful and popular resistance.
Only a new approach to could avert the death of the two state solution, he said. But apart from speaking of the need for “new terms of reference” for negotiations and the “will” to implement the well-known components of a peace deal, the rallying call of his speech was actually a step backwards from this time last year.
Then Abbas submitted an application for the state of Palestine to be admitted to the “family of nations” as a full member. That bid was thwarted by the United States. This year, he announced he had begun “intensive consultations” to have Palestine granted non-member status by the General Assembly.
This he can achieve – a majority of the UN’s 193 countries will back it. But the key phrase “during this session” was confirmation that the Palestinians will not press ahead on this until after the US election.
The people in the cities, towns and villages of the West Bank and Gaza will not find much in their president’s speech to temper their frustration.
On the scene at the UN, Guardian diplomatic editor Julian Borger says Netanyahu succeeded in drawing focus away from Abbas:
Netanyahu’s bomb drawing was like a crude, almost a spoof, version of Colin Powell’s notorious presentation of Iraqi WMD in 2003, but for all its crudity and questionable assumptions, it without doubt succeeded in distracting almost all attention from Mahmoud Abbas’s plaintive description of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in occupied Palestinian territories. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has for decades been centre stage at the UN General Assembly, but not this year, in the febrile atmosphere around the Iranian nuclear programme.
[To read Netanyahu’s speech in full, click here]