In his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on Saturday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expressed little optimism about the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that were relaunched in Washington DC last month.
Abbas talked at length about the plight of the Palestinian people. He blamed Israel’s “mentality of expansion and domination” for pushing the Palestinians “into the corner of violence and conflict, wasting chance after chance to seriously address the issues faced by the peoples of the region.” He further claimed that Israel had “flouted” UN resolutions to continue to carry out “arrests and detentions, killings, destruction, demolition of homes, siege, settlement expansion and [the] establishment of the annexation apartheid wall,” referring to a barrier which Israel is constructing around the West Bank.
The Palestinian leader specifically complained of “illegal Israeli measures and policies” in Jerusalem and the “unjust and unprecedented blockade by land, air and sea” of the Gaza Strip. “This blockade against the Gaza Strip must be lifted immediately and completely,” he said, “and the tragedy and suffering of our people there must be ended.”
Hamas, which controls Gaza, wasn’t mentioned in Abbas’ speech although he did claim that the Palestinian people are “determined to restore national unity between the two parts” of their homeland.
Finally, the president referred to the thousands of his countrymen that remain imprisoned in Israel. “We cannot reach a peace agreement that does not liberate all of them from their chains and cells.”
In spite of all the “historic injustices” that have been inflicted upon the Palestinians, “our wounded hands are
still able to carry the olive branch from the rubble of the trees that the occupation uproots every day,” according to Abbas. “We are willing and ready to reach a comprehensive, just and lasting peace settlement,” he said, but only if Israel, which he consistently described as “the occupying power,” withdraws “from all the Arab and Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.”
The Palestinians’ insistence that Israel halt settlement activity in Palestinian territory does not constitute an “arbitrary precondition” according to Abbas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed a settlement moratorium on colonists last one; one that is due to expire this month. Much of his government is opposed to extending the moratorium but Abbas warned that Israel must “choose between peace and the continuation of settlements.”