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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Mahmoud Abbas tells UN: 'Jerusalem is not for sale'

UN General Assembly 2018: Mr Abbas said Palestinians now 'see the US with new eyes'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York. Reuters
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York. Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Israel and the United States on Thursday that "Jerusalem is not for sale" as he used his address to the United Nations General Assembly to mount a vigorous defence of the Palestinian right to self determination.

Mr Abbas said Palestinians now "see the US with new eyes" and called on the international community to condemn President Donald Trump's decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, shut PLO offices and withdraw funding from the UN Relief and Works Agency.

The right to self-determination, not humanitarian aid, is Palestine's priority, Mr Abbas said, and emphasised that he is always open to negotiate.

Calling for the countries who do not recognise both Palestine and Israel as a state, Mr Abbas said: "I thus call upon all the countries of the world that have not yet recognised the State of Palestine to accelerate this long-overdue recognition.

"I can no longer see a convincing reason for the continued delay of recognition of the State of Palestine by some countries."

Speaking shortly before Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, Mr Abbas reminded the assembly that the PLO had instructed him to suspend recognition of the Israeli state in the aftermath of the Oslo agreement.

The Palestinian leader also warned that the Israeli government was engaged in a constant assault on Jerusalem and raised concerns over an impending Israeli court decision that would encroach on the Al Aqsa mosque. “The Israeli Supreme Court will issue an order to divide Al Aqsa both spatially and in time,” he said.

The last Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014 and Mr Abbas did not address Mr Trump’s concession that the next initiative would be based on the establishment of two states.

“It is really ironic the American administration still talks about the deal of the century,” he said. "With all of these decisions, this administration has reneged on all previous US commitments, and has undermined the two-state solution," Mr Abbas said. ”I renew my call to President Trump to rescind his decisions and decrees regarding Jerusalem, refugees and settlements."

He attacked recent legal changes in Israel that destroyed the path to a two-state solution, the basis of a future peace deal. The enactment of the Nation State law in Israel not only removed the rights of its own Arab citizens but also pre-empted any internationally backed attempt to establish the borders of the states.

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“This law denies the connection of the Palestinian people to their historic homeland and dismisses their right to self-determination and their history and heritage, as well as the United Nations resolutions relevant to the Palestine question and the agreements concluded with Israel,” Mr Abbas said. “This law will inevitably lead to the creation of one racist state, an apartheid state, and nullifies the two-state solution.”

In his address, Mr Netanyahu only spoke briefly of the divisions but attacked Mr Abbas as a “Holocaust denier” and condemned Palestinian laws. “President Abbas you should know better,” he said. “You call Israel racist? This is not the way to peace."

“Some believe Israel can't be both Jewish and democratic. This is false, Israel is both Jewish and democratic.”

The Israeli leader hailed Mr Trump as a defender of Israeli interests at the UN, in particular praising Washington’s decision to strip UNRWA of its funding.

“I look forward to working with President Trump and his peace deal Israel’s appreciation for the unwavering support they have provided Israel at the United Nations.

Responding to Mr Netanyahu's address, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said it "further exposes Israel's systematic denial of our right to exist, to live in freedom and to celebrate our national identity."

He said that Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees were not the only issues off the table for the Israeli government, but "Palestine's very existence" side-by-side with Israel.

"Despite the oppression, racism and daily violence, the proud and resilient people of Palestine will continue to remain steadfast and to believe in the achievement of our inalienable rights, to live in freedom and dignity," Mr Erekat said.

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