Mahmoud Abbas got a second series of standing ovations — a week after he told his people from Ramallah on 16 September that he was going to ask the UN Security Council for full UN membership for the State of Palestine — on 23 September, when he addressed the UN General Assembly in New York.
At the same time, tens of thousands of Palestinians came together in central squares of major West Bank cities to watch the speech, despite an unexpected September rain and cool weather. They were electrified, transported, that Mahmoud Abbas actually went through with what he said he would do: apply to the UN Security Council to ask for full UN membership for the state of Palestine — because, as Mahmoud Abbas argued, it is their right, and they deserve it.
[In 1988, after the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] read a Declaration of Independence at a meeting of the PLO’s Palestine National Council in Algiers in November 1988. In the aftermath, the UN General Assembly took note of the Declaration, and upgraded the PLO from observer national liberation movement to observer organization. At the time, in 1988, the PLO was going to ask for a seat for Palestine in the UN General Assembly hall — even if they would have to leave it symbolically vacant. But, they backed down, in the face of certain international opposition.
The Palestinian leadership could have have asked for UN membership decades ago. But, by waiting, this “UN bid” has been made by the PLO’s Provisional Government, which is the PLO Executive Committee — not by a government in exile, which it would have been in 1988…
Contrary to two earlier indications, Abbas met the UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon just before delivering his speech, and handed over the official Palestinian application — which Abbas signed as President of the State of Palestine, and Chairman of the PLO.
A few hours later, the Washington Post’s UN correspondent Colum Lynch posted the official PLO letter, plus a transmittal letter by UNSG Ban, and a distribution note from the current President [Lebanon] of the UN Security Council for the month of September, here.
The full text of Abbas’s speech to the UNGA can be found here, or here.
Here are some excerpts:
“We aspire for and seek a greater and more effective role for the United Nations in working to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in our region that ensures the inalienable, legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people as defined by the resolutions of international legitimacy of the United Nations…
UPDATE: Though some were not happy, it is fair to say that even some of those Palestinians who have been most critical of the Palestinian Authority and its leadership were pleased. Palestinian activist Mazin Qumsiyeh [Popular Resistance, based in Bethlehem] wrote on his blog, here:
“Mahmoud Abbas gave a brilliant speech at the United Nations, getting rounds of applause from most of the representatives. I think it demonstrated clearly and unambiguously that the Palestinian leadership has been “unreasonably reasonable” and has instead seen the hopes of peace and of millions of Palestinians suffering for 63 years dashed on the rock of Israeli expansionist, colonial, and apartheid policies. He explained that Israel has been taking one unilateral action after another each resulting in more pain and suffering for our people. Going to the UN, he explained is putting things back where the problems started (he did not use the last two words but I do). He said a word that I think he should defend strongly that
no person or country with an iota of logic or conscience should reject the Palestinian state membership in the UN or its formation in the 22% of historic Palestine that is the West Bank and Gaza. I think he took a courageous step and gave a good performance”.
Israeli activist Uri Avnery [Gush Shalom, journalist and former Knesset member] issued a statement saying: ” ‘Mahmud Abbas has taken the excuses out of Netnayhau’s hands. The State of Palestine, under his leadership, is fully ready to make peace with the State of Israel on the basis of the 1967 borders, to resume negotiations if no settlement facts are created on the land subject to negotiations – but the Palestinians are not ready to continue to live under occupation … The State of Palestine will not arise tomorrow, and a long and hard road awaits all of us until this state becomes a reality and takes its rightful place as the Palestinians’ national state and Israel’s partner for peace. Still, today will be counted among the key historical dates in the history of our region. Netanyahu’s answering speech was nothing but a cheap compilation of propaganda, with rejection of the Palestinian offer and intransigent refusal to end the occupation packed in “security” rhetoric and clichés. The “Palestinian state” envisioned in Netahyhau’s speech would be “demilitarized” but have a heavy Israeli military presence in its territory. In practice, there is reason to doubt Netanyahu intends to let any kind of Palestinian state come into being or withdraw from any territory, and his speech in practice left nothing to negotiate about. By a blatant interference in American internal politics, Netanyahu has bent the US to his will. He forced the President of the United States to deliver at the UN a Zionist and cynical speech, contradicting and nullifying Obama’s own previous positions, and assured a US veto and outright opposition to Palestinian aspirations. But it was a pyrrhic victory for Netanyahu – he has been shown the entire world that the United States is not suitable to serve as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians … If and when negotiations resume between Israel and the Palestinians, it will be necessary to find a mediator or mediators more appropriate and fair – which confirms the Palestinians in their decision to move the focus of diplomatic activity from the White House to the UN Headquarters”.
The Israel Project called the speech hate-filled. Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman said it was provocation. And hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Palestinians felt that it was an accurate, concise, restrained description of their suffering.
Continue reading Abbas asks for UN membership for the State of Palestine, Netanyahu says Palestinians must make peace first