NEW YORK — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that Israel was evading its responsibility to end the occupation.
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"While we call to end the occupation, Israel incites and pretends there's no Palestinian partner for peace," Abbas said, addressing the UN General Assembly hours after U.S. President Donald Trump told him that now might be the Palestinians' "best shot ever" to achieve peace.
Abbas said the United Nations bore a legal, political, moral and humanitarian obligation to end the occupation, adding that Israel knew that the occupation bred incitement and violence.
"Draining the swamp of Israeli occupation would greatly affect the fight on terror," he said, adding that ending the occupation would deprive terror groups of a key rallying cry.
"We called on Israel's prime minister to sit with us to negotiate. He rejected this offer," Abbas said, adding that "Israeli policies stir religious animosity and may lead to a violent religious conflict."
Abbas told the General Assembly that Jerusalem was an occupied city, saying that Israel's decisions there were null and void and illegal. He added that "we cannot allow Israeli occupation to continue without cost."
According to Abbas, "our problem is with the Israeli occupation and not with Judaism as a religion." He pondered if "the world can accept an apartheid regime in the 21st century" and asked: "Has the international community surrendered to the fact that Israel is a country above the law?"
Abbas criticized Britain for "failing to rectify the grave injustice it inflicted on the Palestinians when it issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917."
He urged countries that have not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do, noting that "Israel has no borders. How can you recognize a state with no borders?"
Abbas also called for a blacklist of companies operating in Israeli settlements, similar to terrorist blacklists.
He also saluted "our glorious martyrs and our courageous prisoners in Israeli jails."
Earlier, Trump noted that Israeli-Palestinian peace was considered the "toughest deal of all" to achieve, but vowed to devote "everything within my heart and within my soul to get that deal made."
Trump said Saudi Arabia and other Arab states were making efforts to advance the peace process. "Who knows, stranger things have happened, but we have a good chance," he said, adding: "No promises, obviously."
Abbas praised Trump and his team, saying that its efforts had given him the confidence that "we are on the verge of real peace."
He conveyed greetings to Jews, who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah, and Muslims, who are celebrating the Islamic new year this weekend. The fact that the two holidays are taking place around the same time is "an indication we can coexist peacefully together."
In response, Israel's U.N. ambassador says Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' speech at the General Assembly "spread falsehoods" that "encourage hate."
Ambassador Danny Danon issued a statement after the Palestinian Authority president spoke Wednesday about the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Abbas said Israel is jeopardizing the two-state solution by continuing to expand its settlements on Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.
He also warned Israel it would be like "playing with fire" to make any unilateral decisions about a site sacred to both Muslims and Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Tensions rose recently after Israel installed, then removed, metal detectors following the shooting of two Israeli police.
The Israeli ambassador says, in his words: "Today's lies and excuses have proven once again that the Palestinian leadership is a serial evader of peace."
Trump has met with Abbas twice since assuming office. Their first meeting took place in early May, when Abbas arrived for a state visit to Washington. The meeting was described as good and productive by both sides.
Two weeks later, however, the two leaders' meeting in Bethlehem, part of Trump's first trip abroad as president, was reportedly tense and uncomfortable.
Since then, Abbas has met twice with Trump's senior advisers who are working on the peace process, and he has publicly expressed his commitment to Trump's attempt to renew negotiations with Israel.
In an interview with the London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, Abbas confirmed that in his most recent conversation with Jared Kushner, the senior Trump adviser asked for a month-long time-out to develop ideas that would be presented to both the Israelis and the Palestinians.