No Mideast peace without Palestinian rights, Abbas tells UN

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says peace cannot prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full, legitimate national rights. – EPA pic, September 22, 2023.

PALESTINIAN leader Mahmud Abbas said yesterday there could be no peace in the Middle East without a two-state solution, sending a warning as Saudi Arabia considers recognising Israel.

“Those who think that peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full, legitimate national rights would be mistaken,” Abbas told the UN general assembly.

The veteran 87-year-old leader made a new appeal for negotiations and for UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres to call an international conference on creating a Palestinian state.

The United States, historically the peace broker between the two sides, has all but given up on serious negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right government, which has pushed forward settlements in the occupied West Bank considered illegal internationally.

A UN conference “may be the last opportunity to salvage the two-state solution and to prevent the situation from deteriorating more seriously and threatening the security and stability of our region and the entire world,” Abbas said.

His address came a day after Netanyahu discussed Saudi normalisation in a meeting with US President Joe Biden.

Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Salman, said that the process was getting “closer.”

Israel and the United States believe that the Jewish state’s normalisation with Saudi Arabia – guardian of Islam’s two holiest sites – would be a game-changer for the Middle East.

Potentially historic deal

An Israeli diplomat walked out of the General Assembly as Abbas denounced the international “impunity” for Israel over its “apartheid” policies, a characterisation that infuriates the Jewish state.

“Its racist, terrorist settlers continue to intimidate and kill our people, to destroy homes and property, to steal our money and resources,” Abbas said.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, pointed to widely condemned recent remarks by Abbas who said that Nazi Germany killed Jews in the Holocaust not due to their religion, but because of their “social role.”

Abbas has proven that he “is no partner for peace and that he is totally detached from reality and irrelevant,” Erdan said.

But the Saudi crown prince, in the interview with Fox News, said that the kingdom wanted to see progress on the Palestinian issue before establishing ties with Israel. 

Saudi Arabia took part in talks Monday co-organised with the European Union, Jordan and Egypt on the sidelines of the General Assembly that sought to breathe life into the peace process.

A two-state solution “is the only viable solution,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said afterward.

The United States, however, has made no major push on a two-state solution since a failed effort nearly a decade ago by John Kerry, with Donald Trump’s administration instead blessing Israeli actions. 

President Joe Biden’s administration, while returning to a more traditional US position, sees little prospect of diplomatic success.

A Saudi-Israel deal, by contrast, could mark a major foreign policy achievement for Biden in an election year.

Israel has normalised relations with five Arab states – three of them in 2020 including the United Arab Emirates, which said its decision persuaded Netanyahu to drop a plan for West Bank annexation.

Much like the United Arab Emirates with Trump, Saudi Arabia has been seeking sweeteners from Biden in return for recognising Israel. Saudi Arabia has been seeking security guarantees, reportedly including through a potential treaty.

Gulf Arab nations are united with Israel in their tense relationships with Iran’s ruling Shiite clerics.

This month marks three decades since Israel and the Palestinians signed at the White House the Oslo Accords, which established limited self-government under the Palestinian Authority but never led to a lasting solution.

Netanyahu – who addresses the General Assembly today – has said that the Middle East’s priorities have moved on and hopes normalisation with Arab states in effect bypasses a process with the Palestinians. – AFP, September 22, 2023.

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