Abbas issues ultimatum to Israel in harsh UN address
JERUSALEM (AP) - In an unusually harsh speech on Friday, President Mahmoud Abbas gave Israel a year to end the occupation of territories that the Palestinians want for a future state. He threatened to withdraw recognition of Israel - a cornerstone of three decades of failed peace efforts - if it did not.
He delivered the vague ultimatum in a long speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, in which he accused Israel of "apartheid" and "ethnic cleansing" two-state solution.
"If the Israeli occupation authorities continue to cement the reality of an apartheid state, as is happening today, our Palestinian people and the whole world will not tolerate such a situation," Abbas said. "The local circumstances will inevitably have equal and full political rights for everyone on the land of historic Palestine, within a state."
A one-state solution, popular with some Israeli and Palestinian activists, would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish majority state. No major Israeli or Palestinian party supports such an outcome.
Abbas spoke against a backdrop showing the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a holy site sacred to Muslims and Jews, and a series of maps of the region showing Israel's territorial expansion over several decades of war and conflict.
He said he was ready to negotiate final borders in the coming year, but if Israel did not finally end its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it captured in the 1967 war, he would reconsider recognizing Israel. Israel annexed East Jerusalem shortly after the war in an internationally unrecognized move.
"If this is not achieved, then why should one maintain recognition of Israel based on the 1967 borders?" Said Abbas. He also threatened to confront Israel in the International Court of Justice.
There was no immediate comment from Israel on the address that was delivered after the country was largely closed for the weekly Jewish Sabbath.
The Palestinian recognition of Israel was the basis of the Oslo Accords of 1993, which launched the Middle East peace process. Talks stalled more than a decade ago, and Israel’s current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett opposes the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, which is still seen internationally as the only way to resolve the conflict.
Abbas' harsh rhetoric reflects widespread Palestinian frustration over the dying peace process.
But it could also be seen as a way to polish up his nationalist credentials at home, where he faces massive backlash from the Palestinians frustrated by his long reign and the growing authoritarianism of his Palestinian Authority.
A poll released this week found that nearly 80% of Palestinians want his resignation. Abbas' presidential mandate expired in 2009, two years after the militant Islamist group Hamas drove its troops out of Gaza and restricted its authority to semi-autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Abbas canceled the first Palestinian election in 15 years in April when it looked like his Fatah party would suffer an embarrassing loss. He was largely sidelined during the 11-day Gaza War in May as support for his militant Hamas rivals skyrocketed.
The death of a prominent Palestinian Authority critic in June in the custody of Palestinian security forces sparked widespread protests in which the security forces beat and arrested several demonstrators.
But Abbas is still seen internationally as a representative of the Palestinian cause and an important partner in the peace process. Its troops coordinate security with Israel and target Hamas and other militant groups, both of whom see as threats - a policy that has contributed to its unpopularity.
Abbas has made veiled threats before and is unlikely to push through a drastic political decision that would end the Palestinian Authority created by the Oslo Accords. His government is also heavily dependent on the help of the international community, which continues to work for a negotiated two-state solution.
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