‘Last chance’: Abbas urges UN to pressure Israel over settlements

‘Last chance’: Abbas urges UN to pressure Israel over settlements
Mahmoud Abbas has described the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian talks as the ‘last chance’ for peace and has called on the international community to seize that chance by following the EU in outlawing Jewish settlements on occupied territories.

Speaking in front of the UN General Assembly on Thursday, the Palestinian president called on the organization’s member states to put pressure on Israel, so that it would give up on its settlement construction program, seen as a major obstacle for current peace talks to end the decades-long conflict.

Time is running out, the window of peace is narrowing and the opportunities are diminishing. The current round of negotiations appears to be a last chance to realize a just peace,” Abbas said.

He cited the EU as an example of dealing with the issue of the Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands. A new EU policy sees assistance grants – including funds, stipends, scholarships and investments – denied to Israeli entities with any direct or indirect connection to the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights.

The position of the European Union with regard to settlement products is a positive model of what is possible to be done in order to ensure an environment supportive of the negotiations and the peace process,” Abbas told the UN General Assembly.

While pledging full commitment to negotiations with Israel, which resumed in July after a three-year stalemate, Abbas has also said that his own 20-year efforts at striking a deal with Israel left him with “dispiriting and bleak” picture of prospects for reaching a resolution.

The president stressed Palestine wanted a “permanent and comprehensive” agreement.

Here, we reaffirm that we refuse to enter into a vortex of a new interim agreement that becomes eternalized, or to enter into transitional arrangements that will become a fixed rule rather than an urgent exception.” 

Palestinian protesters wave the national flag as their comrades climb Israel's controversial separation barrier during clashes with Israeli security forces following a demonstration against Israeli settlements and its separation wall, in the West Bank village of Nilin near the Jewish settlement of Hashmonaim (background), on May 31, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Abbas’s speech came a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry came up with an optimistic vision for the relaunched Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

All of the issues are on the table -- territories, security, refugees, Jerusalem. All of the final status issues are on the table,” Kerry said.

The United States, which brokers the negotiations, has pledged to have them intensified and set up a goal to have the talks completed in nine months. Kerry revealed on Wednesday that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had already met seven times since the peace talks were resumed.

Abbas addressed the UN for the first time since the General Assembly upgraded the status of its Palestinian mission to that of “non-member observer state” last November. The president’s speech was given an ovation.

The Israeli delegation was not attending the assembly on Thursday, as it was the day of a Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

While most of the analysts described Abbas’s speech as a moderate one compared to his previous tougher rhetoric, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz condemned the address as “anti-peace”.

Instead of condemning terror, it condemns those who struggle against terror. He said that we exaggerate our claims,” Steinitz said as cited by The Times of Israel.

That’s in contrast to an opinion by parliamentary opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich of the center-left Labour party, who said that Abbas’s words “foster cautious hope that we face a new era of dialogue that might lead to an accord,” according to a statement from her office cited by Reuters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the UN on Tuesday. He is scheduled to meet with President Obama a day before that.