Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took a swipe at Benjamin Netanyahu during his address to the United Nations on Thursday, saying the Israeli prime minister was a roadblock to peace between their two peoples.
Abbas used his UN General Assembly speech to bash Netanyahu, who could not attend the diplomatic gabfest in New York after he failed to secure a win in this month’s elections and was left trying to cobble together a coalition government.
“Mister Netanyahu, has he ever agreed to negotiations, behind closed doors, on a bilateral basis, multilateral basis? He never accepted any negotiations,” Abbas told the annual talking shop of presidents, prime ministers, and princes.
“We have both received several invitations from several countries to meet to start the negotiation process, he has rejected that. The latest three invitations from the Russian Federation, and he has rejected those.”
Abbas has frequently bashed Netanyahu’s stance on the Palestinians, saying the Israeli leader’s increasingly hardline policies have served to undermine the chances of a two-state solution to end decades of hostilities.
But these latest comments came as Netenyahu was fighting for his political survival, after an inconclusive ballot result on September 17 that left him weakened and his right-wing Likud party holding a second-place trophy.
Likud secured 32 seats in the 120-member Knesset — one seat less than the 33 won by former armed forces boss Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party, which takes a softer tone on relations with Palestinians.
Abbas made no mention of Gantz in his remarks but dangled the prospect of negotiating with an Israeli leader other than Netanyahu, who has weeks to forge a coalition or the opportunity will be granted to another.
“They say Palestine doesn’t want peace or negotiations. We say we always extend our hand to peace because we are convinced that peace will only be achieved through negotiations,” Abbas told the 193-nation domed chamber.
Despite Likud gaining fewer seats than Blue and White, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday gave Netanyahu the first shot at forming a government, saying he had a better chance of bringing together right-wing, religious groups.
Palestinians aim to make the West Bank part of a future state that would include the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel seized those areas in a 1967 war and moved troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005.
Responding to Abbas’ comments, Israel’s ambassador to the world body, Danny Danon, poured scorn on the Palestinian leader’s rhetoric.
“The Palestinian Authority [PA] chairman refuses to understand that recycled speeches in New York will not lead to solutions in Ramallah”, the Palestinian capital, Danon said in a statement emailed to journalists.
“Abbas prefers to invest more in the PA’s efforts against Israel at the UN than in the fight against incitement and terrorism in the PA under his leadership.”
Abbas’ 22-minute UN address also targeted United States President Donald Trump, whose so-called ‘deal of the century’ between Israelis and Palestinians has been widely criticized among Arabs.
“What is unfortunate and shocking is that the US administration … is supporting the Israeli aggression against us, reneging on its international political, legal and moral obligations,” Abbas told the assembled dignitaries.
The Palestinians have refused to speak with US negotiators since Trump decided to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and cut funding for Palestinian refugees.
Washington “speaks of the so-called deal of the century, and peddles deceptive and elusive economic solutions, after it destroyed by its policies and measures all possibilities to achieve peace,” Abbas added.
Speaking with reporters later on Thursday, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, warned that “hope is being lost” after months of stalled peace-making efforts in one of the world’s longest-running territorial disputes.
“If despair digs deeper roots then were all in trouble,” Safadi said in answer to a question from Inside Over.
“The situation has been very dire and frustrating over the last years because of the lack of progress on the peace track, but we will continue to work with everybody and remain aware that the stakes are very high and the need for action is urgent.”