Skip to main content

Israel destroying two-state solution hopes, Abbas warns UN

Abbas said the he would soon present the UN Security Council with a resolution against Israeli settlements in the West Bank
President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine addresses the 71st United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, US on 22 September (Reuters)

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly on Thursday that Israel's ongoing settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank was destroying any hope of a two-state solution.

"What the Israeli government is doing in pursuit of its expansionist settlement plans will destroy whatever possibility is left for the two-state solution along the 1967 borders," the Palestinian leader said at the 71st United Nations General Assembly in New York. 

He went on to urge countries to recognise Palestine as a state and said that he would soon present the UN Security Council with a resolution against Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which he hopes every country in the 15-member Security Council would support. Previous attempts at calling for reform through the UN have been opposed by the US and often the UK and France which all hold a veto vote. 

"Those who believe in the two-state solution should recognise both states, and not just one of them," Abbas said, while heavily criticising the UK for the 1917 Balfour Declaration that called for the establishment of a Jewish homeland on territory largely inhabited by Palestinians. 

"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. 

The world had to focus on making 2017, the centenary of the declaration, the year that Israeli occupation of the West Bank was finally ended, he added. 

An hour after the Palestinian president, who is facing growing unrest at home and was forced to cancel long overdue local elections that were slated to take place next month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the stage to claim that the conflict was "never" about the hundreds of thousands of Jewish Israeli settlers who now live in the Wast Bank in contravention of international law. 

"This remains the true core of the conflict: the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognise the Jewish state in any boundary," he said. 

"This conflict has never been about the settlements or about establishing a Palestinian state. It's always been about the existence of a Jewish state, a Jewish state in any boundary." 

Netanyahu said that Haifa, Jaffa and Tel Aviv, all cities in Israel, were "the real settlements they are after".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel addresses the 71st United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan (Reuters)

The issue of settlements in the West Bank was nonetheless "real," he conceded, saying that it "can and must be resolved in final negotiations, final-status negotiations."

Abbas' comments at the UN come a day after US President Barack Obama reportedly put aside his differences with Israeli Prime Minister, telling reporters that it was "important for America's national security to ensure we have a safe and secure Israel, one that can defend itself". 

However, he did stress that Washington continued to have "concerns around settlement activity". 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.