Abbas to UN: Make 2017 the year Israeli occupation of Palestinian land ends

President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine addresses the 71st United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S. September 22, 2016 © Mike Segar
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said 2017 should become the year when the Israeli occupation of Palestinian comes to an end, in an address to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

It is my hope that… there is a collective responsibility upon you to ensure that 2017 is the year of ending the occupation,” Abbas said, according to The Times of Israel.

Abbas pledged to submit a resolution to the UN Security Council opposing "the terror of the settlers against the Palestinian people."

The Palestinian president criticized as “contemptuous” recent remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who compared dismantling settlements to “ethnic cleansings.”

"Who is practicing ethnic cleansing?" Abbas asked, as cited by Haaretz, adding that “racial discrimination is a daily reality, Israel continues to grant permits for settlements and infrastructure in the occupied territories while preventing Palestinians from using their land.

The Palestinian leader also said that Britain should apologize for the 1917 Balfour Declaration that endorsed the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The UK should also recognize Palestine as an independent state, he added.

"We ask Great Britain, as we approach 100 years since this infamous declaration, to draw the necessary lessons and to bear its historic, legal, political, material and moral responsibility for the consequences of this declaration, including an apology to the Palestinian people for the catastrophes, misery and injustice this declaration created and to act to rectify these disasters and remedy its consequences, including by the recognition of the state of Palestine," Abbas said, as cited by Reuters. "This is the least Great Britain can do."

Abbas has also urged all countries to recognize Palestine’s independence and asked the international community for cooperation in settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding that it “would surely constitute a unique opportunity for peace, stability and coexistence to prevail in our region and between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.”

The president said that there is the need for a peace conference, but that Israel is “trying to avoid” meeting.

He expressed hope that all UN member states would apply pressure to Israel and that the conference would take place before the end of 2016.

"If there is no conference and no contacts between us, how can peace be made?" Abbas asked, according to Haaretz.

Abbas blamed Israel for sabotaging the peace efforts made by the US over a 13-year period.

Netanyahu: UN’s gone from ‘moral force to moral farce’

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at the UN for constantly placing the blame on Israel, describing it as a “disgrace.”

"It began as a moral force, but the UN has become a moral farce," the prime minister said.

He also said that the UN Human Rights Council is a “joke” while UNESCO is a “circus.”

“The sooner the UN’s obsession with Israel ends, the better. The better for Israel, the better for your countries, the better for the UN itself,” Netanyahu said, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Netanyahu, who addressed the UN General Assembly after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, responded to his harsh statement by saying that “the real settlements the [Palestinians] are after are Tel Aviv and Haifa.”

Netanyahu, however, invited Abbas to “speak to the Israeli people at the Knesset in Jerusalem.”

Israel's leader noted that the “true core of the conflict” is “the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state in any boundary.”

“It’s always been about the existence of a Jewish state, a Jewish state in any boundary,” Netanyahu added.