Abbas and Netanyahu Address UN - Abbas Accuses Israel of
`Ethnic Cleansing' (two posts)
1. Abbas Accuses Israel of `Ethnic Cleansing' for Building
Settlements in East Jerusalem (Associated Press story in The
2. A Tale of Two Speeches (Phyllis Bennis, Institute for
Abbas Accuses Israel of `Ethnic Cleansing' for Building
Settlements in East Jerusalem
By Associated Press
The Washington Post
September 27, 1:31 PM
UNITED NATIONS - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused
Israel of ethnic cleansing Thursday for building settlements
in east Jerusalem.
"It is a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian
people via the demolition of their homes," Abbas said in his
speech to the U.N. General Assembly.
His remarks came shortly before Israel Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu was scheduled to speak.
Israel conquered the eastern part of Jerusalem from Jordan
during the 1967 Mideast War. It later annexed it but the move
has not been internationally recognized. The Palestinians want
east Jerusalem to the capital of their future state in the
Abbas also said he has opened talks on a new bid for
international recognition at the U.N., but didn't specify
exactly when he will ask the General Assembly to vote.
"Intensive consultations with the various regional
organizations and the state members" were underway, he said.
The Palestinians will apply to the General Assembly for
nonmember state status.
That stands in sharp contrast to last year, when they asked
the Security Council to admit them as a full member state, but
the bid failed.
Abbas insisted that the new quest for recognition was "not
seeking to delegitimize Israel, but rather establish a state
that should be established: Palestine."
Palestinian officials said their bid is likely to be submitted
on Nov. 29.
Abbas said in a speech to the assembly that efforts to win
Palestine status as an observer state - a lower level than
last year's failed bid for recognition as a full state - were
not intended to pose any threat to Israel.
"We are not seeking to delegitimize Israel, but rather
establish a state that should be established: Palestine,"
However, Abbas said he was "speaking on behalf of an angry
people," who believed they were not winning their rights
despite adopting a "culture of peace and international
"Israel gets rewarded while continues the policies of war,
occupation and settlements," he said.
Abbas also accused Israel of seeking to "continue its
occupation of East Jerusalem, and annex vast parts of West
Bank ... and refuses to discuss seriously the Palestinian
He claimed that Israeli actions threatened to undermine the
Palestinian Authority to the point "which could lead to its
Palestinian officials said that their bid for recognition will
likely be submitted to the General Assembly on Nov. 29, after
the U.S. presidential election. Abbas has sought to avoid
entangling the Palestinian statehood bid in U.S. presidential
Appealing to other nations for their support, Abbas asked
world leaders to help avoid a new "catastrophe" in Palestine.
"Support the establishment of the free state of Palestine now,
and let peace win before it's too late," he said.
"We have started intensive consultations with the various
regional organizations and the state members in order for the
General Assembly to take a decision granting the state of
Palestine the status of nonmember state during this U.N.
session," he said.
At last year's General Assembly, Abbas took center stage with
his attempt to win full membership to the world body. However,
that application failed to win enough support in the U.N.
Palestinians did win membership last year of UNESCO, the
Paris-based U.N. cultural agency - despite the objections of
Israel and the U.S.
A Tale of Two Speeches
Palestinian Chairman Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister
Netanyahu addressed the United Nations, told of the
worst of times
by Phyllis Bennis
Institute for Policy Studies blog
September 27, 2012
Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' speech to the United
Nations General Assembly was as much about trying to reclaim
his dwindling support among Palestinians as it was designed to
outline Palestine's intention to move for a new status at the
UN. The consequence of "non-member state" status, while not
granting full UN membership, would provide a UN imprimatur to
the identity of Palestine as a state, meaning it would have
the right to sign treaties. Of particular significance would
be Palestine joining the Rome Treaty as a signatory to the
International Criminal Court. That would, at least
potentially, enable an ICC investigation of potential Israeli
war crimes on Palestinian territory.
Beyond his anticipated call for the new UN recognition as a
"state," much of Abbas' speech focused on Israeli violations
of international law, particularly the Geneva Conventions.
While he issued his usual call for resuming peace talks with
Israel, he called for the United Nations, specifically the
Security Council, to pass a binding resolution setting out the
terms of reference for any renewed diplomatic process,
something that seems to contradict his longstanding
willingness to allow unchallenged U.S. control of the
In other parts of his speech, the PLO Chairman reasserted the
PLO's role as the sole legitimate representative of the
Palestinian people, while rejecting the occupation's efforts
to divide Gaza from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and
reaffirmed the need for a "just solution" for Palestinian
refugees under the terms of UN resolution 194. In language
clearly designed to win support from Palestinians both in the
OPT and in the diaspora, many of whom remain dissatisfied with
the current Palestinian leadership and whom he identified as
"an angry people," he spoke of Israeli "apartheid," asserted
Palestinian rights and the need to continue "peaceful popular
resistance" against occupation. In a clear effort to win
support from Palestinian civil society, whose call for a
global campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions has
fundamentally challenged longstanding PLO/PA strategy, he
spoke in a language of rights, rejecting the notion of
statehood being bestowed on Palestinians, and identified
Israel's "settler colonialism" as something that must be
"condemned, punished, and boycotted."
As anticipated, Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech, reflecting
the huge political gain that he has won from his year of
escalating threats against Iran, barely touched the
Palestinian question. He has taken advantage of the fact that
as long as the claim (however specious) that Israel faces an
"existential danger" from Iran is on the table, no one,
certainly not the United States, has been willing to exert any
real pressure on Israel regarding the occupation. His
reference to Israel's occupation was limited to a brief
paragraph in which he claimed that "we seek peace with the
Palestinians." He then went on to lecture the Palestinians,
saying "we won't solve the conflict with libelous speeches at
the UN, that's not the way to solve them." He said the
conflict wouldn't be solved with "unilateral declarations of
statehood," that the only goal can be a "mutual compromise in
which a demilitarized Palestinian state [heavily emphasized in
his delivery] recognizes the one and only Jewish state."
Netanyahu's speech focused almost solely on Iran, comparing it
to Nazi Germany and calling for the world to join his crusade
against it. He spoke derisively of those who claim that a
nuclear-armed Iran might stabilize the Middle East, looking up
from his prepared notes with a sarcastic "yeah, right."
Interestingly, he reminded the world - seemingly as a point of
pride - that he had been speaking about "the need to prevent
Iran from developing nuclear weapons for over 15 years." It
apparently didn't appear to his speechwriting team that this
admission, when all of those earlier warnings were shaped by
the same "it's almost too late" rhetoric that we heard today,
might somehow discredit his unchanging claim.
Ignoring the fact that the United States, unfortunately,
already has an "all options on the table" red line of its own
(preventing Iran from obtaining a bomb), Netanyahu called on
the United States to endorse his own specific red line for
using force against Iran. He set his red line as Iran's
ability to enrich uranium to bomb grade, and demanded that the
U.S. join. While Iran has not enriched anywhere close to that
level, Netanyahu's language reflected his red line on Iran's
"capability," a line that he argued is almost here. He spoke
on the need to attack Iranian facilities while they are "still
visible and still vulnerable." Perhaps taking a lesson from
then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's use of fake "anthrax"
props when trying to persuade the Security Council of the need
to go to war against Iraq in 2002, Netanyahu held up a
primitive grade-school level poster prop and used insulting
"this is a bomb, this is a fuse" language.
Netanyahu's overall language, however, was significantly more
conciliatory towards President Obama than much of his recent
rhetoric. Perhaps it was the cohort of Jewish Democratic Party
heavyweights who scolded the Israeli prime minister for
interfering in U.S. politics, or perhaps it was his U.S.
advisers, or perhaps his own political team at home - but
whatever the reason, Netanyahu's overt embrace of all things
Romney, and his disdain for all things Obama, was kept well
under wraps in New York.
[Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy
Studies and directs the New Internationalism Project at IPS.
She is also a fellow of the Transnational Institute in
Amsterdam. She has been a writer, analyst, and activist on
Middle East and UN issues for many years. In 2001 she helped
found and remains on the steering committee of the U.S.
Campaign to End Israeli Occupation. She works closely with the
United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition, co-chairs the
UN-based International Coordinating Network on Palestine, and
since 2002 has played an active role in the growing global
peace movement. She continues to serve as an adviser to
several top UN officials on Middle East and UN democratization
Phyllis Bennis is the author of eight books: From Stones to
Statehood: The Palestinian Uprising (1990); Calling the Shots:
How Washington Dominates Today's UN (2000); Before & After: US
Foreign Policy and the September 11th Crisis (2003) [US Policy
and the War on Terrorism, 2nd ed.]; Challenging Empire: How
People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power (2006);
Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer
(2009); Ending the Iraq War: A Primer (2009); Understanding
the US-Iran Crisis: A Primer (2009); Ending the US War in
Afghanistan: A Primer (2010). She is also co-editor of Beyond
the Storm: A Gulf Crisis Reader (1991) and Altered States: A
Reader in the New World Order (1993).]
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