NEW YORK – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to use his address to the UN on Wednesday to threaten that if no breakthrough in the peace process occurs over the next few months, the PA will cease honoring some of the agreements it has signed with Israel over the past 20 years, diplomats who spoke with Palestinian leader and his advisers Tuesday said.
Part of Abbas’ speech was foreshadowed by an article published under his byline in the Huffington Post on Tuesday. In it, he accused Israel of carrying out “ethnic cleansing,” thereby making the Palestinians’ plight “even more dire” than apartheid.
“While the Israeli government pays lip service to the two-state solution internationally, domestically it employs policies aimed at destroying what’s left of Palestine,” he wrote.
Abbas also wrote, and will apparently reiterate in his speech, that there’s no point in continuing the peace process in the same way it has been conducted over the last 20 years – via direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Instead, he said, a multilateral process like the recent nuclear negotiations with Iran is needed.
“We cannot directly negotiate with a power that has this level of control and exhibits such contempt for the rights and existence of our people,” he wrote.
Abbas, who will address the General Assembly at about 12 P.M ET (7 P.M. Israel time), is frustrated and angry over the fact that other world leaders largely ignored the Palestinian issue in their UN speeches. U.S. President Barack Obama was particularly noteworthy in this regard; he didn’t mention the Palestinians even once.
“President Obama made a mistake, but on the other hand, he also made no mention of Israel,” Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, told Haaretz. “Evidently, this also says something.”
The lobby of New York’s Grand Hyatt hotel was filled Tuesday with European, American and Israeli officials who sought to find out just how harsh Abbas’ speech was likely to be. Abu Rudeineh said Abbas had already written his speech, but some sections were open to change. “He’ll decide on the final version only at the last minute,” the spokesman added.
Western diplomats who met with Abbas and his advisers said the Palestinian leader planned to say he was “worn out” and to accuse Israel of having emptied the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements of all content.
Abbas will also say that if the situation doesn’t change significantly within the next few months, the PA will stop honoring some provisions of its agreements with Israel, the envoys added.
One diplomat said the big question, on which Abbas will decide only shortly before his speech, is whether the PA will stop honoring certain agreements immediately, or whether it will instead set a deadline by which Israeli policy must change to prevent this from happening.
On the docket: Palestinians return to center stage
In contrast to its virtual absence from the General Assembly’s agenda to date, the Palestinian issue will take center stage Wednesday. In addition to Abbas’ speech, representatives of the PA’s donor states will be meeting at the UN. Moreover, the Palestinian flag will be raised at UN headquarters in New York for the first time, in a festive ceremony.
Then, at around 5 P.M ET midnight Israel time, representatives of the Quartet – the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations – will meet to discuss the impasse in the peace process. The second half of the meeting, which is being held at the foreign minister level, will be joined by the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Britain, France, Germany, China and other countries.
The meeting is expected to end with an announcement that senior diplomats from all four Quartet members will soon pay a joint visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah to discuss ways to halt the recent violence and advance the peace process. This delegation, due to arrive on October 15, constitutes the international community’s first major effort to revive the peace process since the last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks broke down in April 2014.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will land in New York early Wednesday and address the General Assembly Thursday. Before boarding his plane, he said that both his speech and his meetings at the UN will emphasize Israel’s desire for peace with the Palestinians. He also plans to demand an end to Palestinian incitement over the Temple Mount.
“Regrettably, the Palestinians keep spreading crude lies about our policy on the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu said. “I’ll demand an end to this unbridled incitement. Israel is committed to the status quo [on the Mount] and upholds it. The Palestinian rioters who bring weapons onto the Temple Mount are the ones violating the site’s sanctity and the status quo.”