(JTA) – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at the UN General Assembly called for the preservation of the two-state solution.
“The two-state solution is in jeopardy, we cannot as Palestinians stand still in the face of this threat,” Abbas said Wednesday at the launch of this year’s General Assembly in New York.
Since Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president, Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have both retreated from endorsing two states as a necessary outcome of peace talks. Abbas, who has eagerly engaged Trump’s bid to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks, hopes to extract a recommitment from Trump to the two-state solution.
“Our choice is the two-state solution on the 1967 borders,” Abbas said, “and we will grant every chance for the efforts being undertaken by President Donald Trump and the Quartet and international community as a whole to achieve a historic agreement that brings the two-state solution to reality, enabling the state of Palestine with its capital East Jerusalem to live in peace and security side by side with Israel.”
The Quartet refers to the grouping of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union guiding the Middle East peace process.
Abbas said that failing the re-establishment of talks, he would continue to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood outside the framework of a peace process – a posture Israel has rejected repeatedly as sabotaging chances for peace.
In a first for a Palestinian president since the launch of the Oslo peace process in 1993, Abbas also suggested that the Palestinians might, in the face of the collapse of hopes for two states, agitate for full rights in a single state.
Likening Israel’s control of the West Bank to a “one-state reality” and apartheid, Abbas warned that in the failure of a two-state solution, “neither you, nor we, will have any other choice but to continue the struggle and demand full, equal rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine. This is not a threat, but a warning of the realities before us as a result of ongoing Israeli policies that are gravely undermining the two-state solution.”
Abbas met with Trump prior to his speech. The U.S. president, who did not mention Israeli-Palestinian peace in his own UN speech on Tuesday, praised Abbas on Twitter.
“Honoured to meet with President Abbas from the Palestinian Authority and his delegation, who have been working hard with everybody involved toward peace,” Trump wrote.
In his speech and during his meeting with Trump, Abbas delivered Rosh Hashanah wishes to Jews around the world.
“Allow me, Mr. President, to use this opportunity to extend my heartfelt congratulations to the Jewish people on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah today, and to the Muslim people on the occasion of the new Islamic year tomorrow,” Abbas said while meeting with Trump. “And this is a very sweet coincidence that we can celebrate the new year together within a 24-hour period, and if this is an indication to anything it means that we can coexist peacefully together.”
Netanyahu has said that he does not want to “annex” the Palestinian population living in the West Bank, but that negotiations over a two-state solution are untenable as long as Abbas does not recognize Israel specifically as a Jewish state, continues to discuss a Palestinian “right of return” to homes and property in Israel, and does not agree to Israeli security control over the West Bank.