In an address to the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on the Security Council to pass a resolution to end the Israeli occupation by ordering the immediate resumption of negotiations with a set time limit to demarcate the boundaries of a Palestinian state.
“The introduction of a draft resolution aspires to correct the deficiency of the previous efforts to achieve peace,” Abbas said to the General Assembly in New York.
“We are the only people remaining under occupation in the world,” he continued.
Abbas did not say when this resolution has to be implemented or outline what repercussions Israel could face if it does not comply. Senior Palestinian officials confirmed a draft has already been written in consultation with members of the Arab League and Hamas. Over the weekend while in Cairo negotiating a long-term ceasefire in Gaza, Hamas officials were said to have again signed off on the text, pledging support privately. Those officials include Hamas’s political bureau leader Khaled Mashal.
Conflicting time tables for ending the occupation
During the General Assembly this week ranking members of the Palestinian government made conflicting remarks about precisely when this Security Council proposal will be submitted. Member of the PLO Central Council Dr. Mustafa Barghouti said it will be released “immediately”– within a month– while Economic Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said he thought the resolution would be presented the following day. However, the Palestinian delegation to the UN left New York shortly after Abbas’s speech.
Abbas said his resolution would include a “specific timeframe” to fully remove Israel’s occupation in the terms, “stipulated in the Arab Peace Initiative,”—in which Arab states offered to normalize relations with Israel once it recognizes a Palestinian state on the June 1967 lines, an offer that has been on the table since 2002. Beyond those general details, however, no other information has been released, including when this political project will begin.
That lack of clarity seems to extend to the Palestinian government. Discussing when Israel has to return to 1967 lines in a Thursday meeting at the General Assembly with the Chilean president, “Abu Mazen [Abbas] said it could be six months, it could be a year, it doesn’t matter as far as there is a deadline and that’s something he said in the meeting,” stated Spokesperson for the PLO Xavier Abu Eid. Abu Eid said, “I’ve heard from six months to three years,” continuing, “The idea is putting a deadline to end the occupation.”
Palestinian Economic Minister Mr. Shtayyeh said this afternoon the text of the Security Council resolution he saw makes clear a deadline of three months, and Dr. Barghouti added that once an agreement on borders has been reached, Israel will then have three years to remove their civilians and forces. If the United States vetoes this resolution inside the Security Council, as many expect, Dr. Barghouti said the Palestinian leaders would then seek the option of acceding to the Rome Statute to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) where they could then charge Israel with crimes against humanity.
Weeks ago Palestinian leaders announced that letters to join the ICC have been drafted and a separate memorandum has been signed by all Palestinian parties supporting the measure, but senior members of the PLO say at this point there is no timetable for when they would actually join the court.
Inside the Palestinian government “there is one opinion that we should join the Rome statute immediately,” and another to wait, said Dr. Barghouti who emphasized that his personal position is that the PLO should join the ICC in conjunction with the Security Council Resolution. Indeed there is overwhelming support among Palestinians to pursue the ICC, and for weeks Palestinian officials have fingered Abbas as the lone holdout. “Some think the Rome Statute is like the nuclear option,” said Barghouti of his guarded colleagues. “In my opinion this could be a reasonable opinion before Gaza, not after.” Indeed Abbas also mentioned Gaza as an impetus for appealing to the United Nations for support, stating, “This last war against Gaza was a series of absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world, moment by moment, in a manner that makes it inconceivable that anyone today can claim that they did not realize the magnitude and horror of the crime. The difference today is that the scale of this genocidal crime is larger.”
‘A most abhorrent form of Apartheid’
Abbas hopes to finally lock down a mechanism to address final status issues–namely water, borders, Jerusalem and refugees. Those matters have been on hold for the past 25 years; not since the onset of the Oslo Accords have Palestinian leaders discussed core issues of the conflict in negotiations with Israel.
In his speech to the U.N General Assembly Abbas chastised Israel saying,”the future proposed by the Israeli government for the Palestinian people is at best isolated ghettos for Palestinians on fragmented lands.” He continued that if there is no deadline to end the occupation the West Bank and Gaza will be marooned to “the subjugation of the racist settlers and army of occupation, and at worst will be a most abhorrent form of Apartheid.”
Abbas made additional remarks on the heightened tensions in Israeli society that led to a series of violent attacks against Palestinians, hitting a fever pitch during the summer. “This culture of racism, incitement and hatred was glaringly manifested in the despicable, appalling crime committed months ago by fascist settlers, who abducted the young Jerusalemite boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir, burnt him alive and killed him,” he said.
Update: The State Department was quick to denounce Abbas’s speech for the comments on the occupation. AP’s Matt Lee posted this statement last night: