Analysis: Abbas and Netanyahu UN Speeches

By Aaron Marcus l September 29, 2011

Background: Proposal for Statehood

As world leaders descended upon New York City for the 61st annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, the main question on the minds of most delegations and observers was the fate of the Palestinian territories. On Friday, September 23rd, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submitted an application of Statehood for Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and as a full member of the United Nations. Much to the chagrin of the United States, Abbas followed the submittal of this proposal with a speech to the General Assembly and argued in support of such a plan.

Abbas, in his “capacity as the President of the State of Palestine and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization” delivered his application for UN admission of a State of Palestine to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “on the basis of the 4 June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, as a full member of the United Nations,” said Abbas. The boundaries of which would stretch from the Gaza strip on the Mediterranean eastward to Jerusalem in the West Bank, effectively cutting Israel in half.

Of even greater consequence, Abbas knew at that moment the UN Security Council was presided over by a slew of anti-Israel nations, including Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon. Hezbollah is one of the U.S. State Department’s designated terrorist organizations, and in this case, an Iranian proxy opposed to the very existence of the State of Israel. Addressing the same assembly shortly afterwards, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu exposed this charade saying, “This means, in effect, that a terror organization presides over the body entrusted with guaranteeing the world’s security.”

Abbas began his speech not calling for peace but rather evoking the belief the Palestinians have of Israel that the “plight of Palestinian refugees” is that of “the victims of Al-Nakba (Catastrophe) that occurred in 1948.” With roots in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (Partition Plan) of November 29, 1947, which defined the settlement of Palestine creating both a Jewish and an Arab state, it was the Israeli Declaration of Independence that was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, the day before the British Mandate over Palestine was set to expire when the Arab armies invaded, prompting the first Arab-Israeli war.

Resolution 181, calling for Security Council “measures as provided for in the plan for its implementation,” never sought a “Palestinian” state but rather an Arab state and a Jewish state. A creation of the Arab League Cairo Summit, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in 1964 as a terrorist arm of the Arab nations to cleanse the former British Mandate of the Jews, while claiming plausible deniability. It wasn’t until July 1-17, 1968, when the Palestine National Council drafted its Charter that two specific guiding principles became apparent: First, bridging Resolution 181 with the ‘Palestinian people’ against the ‘Zionist occupation’; and second, under Article 24, a recognition of sovereignty over the West Bank by Jordon and over Gaza by Egypt.

That Resolution 181 called for an Arab state and a Jewish state is clear. However, Article 1 of the PLO Charter states: “Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people” (Emphasis Added), a linkage that did not originally exist. Moreover, Article 20 declared the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine “null and void,” while Article 22 called for the destruction of Israel.

Netanyahu opened his address before the UN General Assembly calling for peace. “Ladies and gentleman, Israel has extended its hand in peace from the moment it was established 63 years ago. On behalf of Israel and the Jewish people, I extend that hand again today. I extend it to the people of Egypt and Jordan, with renewed friendship for neighbors with whom we have made peace. I extend it to the people of Turkey, with respect and good will. I extend it to the people of Libya and Tunisia, with admiration for those trying to build a democratic future. I extend it to the other peoples of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, with whom we want to forge a new beginning. I extend it to the people of Syria, Lebanon and Iran, with awe at the courage of those fighting brutal repression.”

Abbas effectively gave up on peace talks with Israel, after accusing the Jewish nation of breaching international law and ceasing to be a partner for peace to which Netanyahu responded:

“People say to me constantly: Just make a sweeping offer, and everything will work out. You know, there’s only one problem with that theory. We’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked. In 2000 Israel made a sweeping peace offer that met virtually all of the Palestinian demands. Arafat rejected it. The Palestinians then launched a terror attack that claimed a thousand Israeli lives. Prime Minister Olmert afterwards made an even more sweeping offer, in 2008. President Abbas didn’t even respond to it. But Israel did more than just make sweeping offers. We actually left territory. We withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 and from every square inch of Gaza in 2005. That didn’t calm the Islamic storm, the militant Islamic storm that threatens us. It only brought the storm closer and make [sic] it stronger.”

Are settlements really a roadblock to peace? 

Arguably, matters are far worse today than in 2000 and Israel is less secure now that it is surrounded by militant Islam – an ideological enemy of Israel. In fact, the wedge issue Abbas used against Israel and subscribed to by the United Nations and the White House is the issue of West Bank settlements.

Abbas had claimed that:

“Settlement activities embody the core of the policy of colonial military occupation of the land…is the primary cause for the failure of the peace process, the collapse of dozens of opportunities, and the burial of the great hopes that arose from the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel to achieve a just peace that would begin a new era for our region.”

It is historically inaccurate to claim that settlements are the “primary cause of the collapse of the peace process.” As Netanyahu stated, “President Abbas just stood here, and he said that the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the settlements. Well, that’s odd. Our conflict has been raging for — was raging for nearly half a century before there was a single Israeli settlement in the West Bank.”

Although the founding of Israel took place in 1948 under the auspices of the United Nations, it is likely that Abbas’s proposal for statehood would not end the Arab-Israeli conflict and would likely perpetuate the violence that is a result of it. “I guess that the settlements he’s talking about are Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa, Be’er Sheva. Maybe that’s what he meant the other day when he said that Israel has been occupying Palestinian land for 63 years. He didn’t say from 1967; he said from 1948. I hope somebody will bother to ask him this question because it illustrates a simple truth: The core of the conflict is not the settlements. The settlements are a result of the conflict,” Netanyahu said.

In addition to the Abbas claim that Israel has been occupying territory since 1948, the proposed emblem for a Palestinian nation is the silhouette of the West Bank, Gaza and Israel. To place this in perspective, one just has to imagine Mexico’s emblem as a silhouette of Mexico with Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California as part of its territory.

The real violators of Oslo

Abbas also said in his speech that Israeli settlements in the disputed territory of the West Bank had buried “the great hopes that arose from the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.” These Declaration of Principles that Abbas was referring to are known as the Oslo Accords, which were agreed to by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and U.S. President Bill Clinton. This was supposed to be the framework for all further negotiations signed by the Israeli government and PLO. It deliberately didn’t include final status of borders and Palestinian refugees in an attempt to first achieve common ground on a plethora of issues. Israel would recognize the PLO as the governing body of the Palestinian people and the PLO would recognize Israel’s right to exist and renounce all forms of violence. The agreement also gave the PLO control over parts of the West Bank and Gaza, including their own security forces – which Israel supplied with weapons and resources – and called for withdrawal of Israeli troops from portions of the same areas.

Israelis not only abided by all of these conditions but continue to hold the agreement as the basis for final status negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. While Abbas claims that Israel’s refusal to uprootcommunities in the historic homeland of the Jewish People is the culprit for a failure of the Oslo Accords, it is clear the Palestinians began to neglect the agreement soon after its inception. President Abbas should have realized the error of his speech since he was the lone Palestinian representative to sign the agreement. If Abbas had been honest with himself, the UN delegates and millions of people worldwide watching his speech, he would have noted this and promised to rectify the situation. Yet, he did not.

In the seven years following the signing of the Oslo Accords more than 300 Israelis were killed by acts of Palestinian terrorism in the territories regulated by Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. Additionally, while the accords stipulated that the Palestinians must renounce all forms of violence, Arafat’s administration defiantly ignored the basic premise of the agreement. With control over Palestinian towns in the West Bank and Gaza, school children were taught to hate Jews, Israelis and Americans alike. Math equations would show up in first grade textbooks asking the students, “If there are 10 Jews and a Martyr murders three of them, how many are left?” Yasser Arafat also harbored and supported terror groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the terror wing of his own political party Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

As recently as 2010, the Palestinian Authority dedicated a town center in the city of Al-Birah to terrorist Dalal Mughrabi. Mughrabi was responsible for a terror attack 33 years earlier that killed 37 innocent Israelis, 13 of them children and is considered the deadliest in the history of Israel. While this dedication happened recently, it is one of countless town centers and public areas dedicated to Jihadists and Palestinian terrorists. In the ultimate betrayal of any peace agreement, one that was so pro-Palestinian, it cost the life of the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, to a right wing extremist. Yasser Arafat frequently and publically called for violence against Israel and Jewish people around the world.

Although the PLO had been a U.S. State Department designated terrorist organization responsible for innumerable unspeakable acts of violence against Israelis, Abbas portrayed Arafat as a man of peace. He stated, “In 1974, our deceased leader Yasser Arafat came to this hall and assured the Members of the General Assembly of our affirmative pursuit for peace, urging the United Nations to realize the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people, stating: ‘Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand’.”

The idea that Yasser Arafat was a man of peace is incomprehensible. While millions of Palestinians suffered from poverty and despair, Yasser Arafat stole international funds donated to their cause and amassed a net worth of almost $1.5 billion. Arafat also oversaw dozens of terror attacks against Israeli civilians. The Palestinian paramilitary group, Black September was founded in 1970. In 1972 Black September conducted a horrible attack that massacred 12 Israeli athletes who were competing in the Munich Olympic Games. Less than two years after that terrorist attack, Abbas claimed Arafat had addressed the UN as a man of peace. When the General Assembly heard this on Friday they gave Abbas a standing ovation. Forgetting that in the sentence prior to the one in which Abbas quoted, Arafat had said, “Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter’s gun.” Preceding that statement with the notion that “through our popular armed struggle our political leadership and our national institutions finally crystallized and a national liberation movement, comprising all the Palestinian factions, organizations and capabilities, materialized in the PLO.”

Hypocrisy of the United Nations

Netanyahu on Friday quickly pointed out the hypocritical and biased nature of the United Nations, calling it a “theatre of the absurd,” where designated terrorist states like Libya and Iraq had in the past overseen human rights and disarmament committees, while a terrorist-controlled state like Lebanon today heads the Security Council, Israel is constantly condemned and damned. “[I]t was here in 1975,” Netanyahu continued, “that the age-old yearning of my people to restore our national life in our ancient biblical homeland — it was then that this was branded, rather — shamefully, as racism. And it was here in 1980, right here, that the historic peace agreement between Israel and Egypt wasn’t praised; it was denounced! And it’s here year after year that Israel is unjustly singled out for condemnation. It’s singled out for condemnation more often than all the nations of the world combined. Twenty-one out of the 27 General Assembly resolutions condemn Israel — the one true democracy in the Middle East. Well, this is an unfortunate part of the UN institution. It’s the — the theater of the absurd. It doesn’t only cast Israel as the villain; it often casts real villains in leading roles…”

Netanyahu was responding to the absurd list of conditions Abbas claimed the PLO will continue to abide by “until the resolution of all final status issues,” is agreed upon. These claims by Abbas started with the following:

“The goal of the Palestinian people is the realization of their inalienable national rights in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the land of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in the June 1967 war, in conformity with the resolutions of international legitimacy and with the achievement of a just and agreed upon solution to the Palestine refugee issue in accordance with resolution 194, as stipulated in the Arab Peace Initiative which presented the consensus Arab vision to resolve the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict and to achieve a just and comprehensive peace. To this we adhere and this is what we are working to achieve. Achieving this desired peace also requires the release of political prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons without delay.”

This first goal by the Palestinian Authority is unrealistic and conveniently ignores numerous resolutions passed by the United Nations. It also ignores basic differences between resolutions that are binding and non-binding. For starters, Abbas believes that the Old City of Jerusalem, which houses major holy sites of Jews, Muslims and Christians is occupied territory. Under current Israeli control, all three major religions have access to their various holy sites. Meanwhile, Maen Areikat, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) ambassador to the United Nations, indicated 10 days before Abbas’s UN speech that a future Palestinian state would “absolutely” ban Jews. As Netanyahu noted in his speech on Friday, “They’ll be Jew-free — Judenrein. That’s ethnic cleansing. There are laws today in Ramallah that make the selling of land to Jews punishable by death. That’s racism. And you know which laws this evokes.” A Jerusalem controlled by a Palestinian State will never be accepted by Israel, because it will mean the surrender of the Jewish people’s most sacred ground.

Ignoring international treaties and agreements to the detriment of Israeli security

Abbas also fails to stipulate that resolution 194 is non-binding since the General Assembly and not the Security Council passed it. Meanwhile, he leaves out of his speech reference to the binding Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which Netanyahu clarifies. “Israel needs greater strategic depth, and that’s exactly why Security Council Resolution 242 didn’t require Israel to leave all the territories it captured in the Six-Day War. It talked about withdrawal from territories, to secure and defensible boundaries. And to defend itself, Israel must therefore maintain a long-term Israeli military presence in critical strategic areas in the West Bank.” Resolution 338 was passed by the Security Council following the Yom Kippur War calling for Israel and the Arab nations to begin implementation of Resolution 242. For those who complain that General Assembly Resolution 181 was non-binding and therefore the creation of the state of Israel is questionable, it is important to note the significance of Security Council Resolution 242 that affirms Israel’s “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

This is precisely why Israel cannot return to the June 1967 borders Abbas and President Obama are seeking. At nine miles in length, this would undoubtedly undermine Israeli security. It is impossible to protect a piece of land that can be crossed by enemy fighter jets in under three minutes. This is not an outlandish request of Israel either. In two out of the three most prominent withdrawals of Israeli troops and citizens from land won in war, they have been met with a bombardment of rocket fire and more war. Israel had the unfortunate experience of having their “land for peace” policy become a missile testing ground near areas that are considerably less populated than Israeli territory adjacent to the West Bank. As Netanyahu made clear, “Our major international airport is a few kilometers away from the West Bank. Without peace, will our planes become targets for antiaircraft missiles placed in the adjacent Palestinian state?”

Abbas’s assurance of renouncing violence, condemning terrorism and returning to the negotiating table is insincere and has been historically and tragically ignored by all Palestinian administrations. As Yasser Arafat stated in his 1974 UN Speech, “our popular armed struggle…finally crystallized a national liberation movement.” The PLO was conceived in violence and, as it continues to raise its terrorist founders on a pedestal throughout the land, there is no chance that peace will see the light of day. A Palestinian country would welcome the militant Islamic group, Hamas, which calls for the murder of Jews not only in Israel but also around the world. The claim that the PLO will adhere to all agreements signed with Israel is an abject lie. The very submittal of a Palestinian State without the approval of Israel is in direct violation of the Oslo Accords and UN Security Council Resolution 242.

Lastly, Abbas is stating that the PLO will only return to the negotiating table with a “complete cessation of settlement activities.” A precondition that holds no responsibility for the Palestinians and again violates Security Council Resolution 242 that specifies Israel can establish a country based on secure borders. It should also be noted, that while Abbas calls Israeli activity in the West Bank, “settlement activity,” the correct terminology to be used is “disputed territory.” Aside from the obvious, Israel signed a peace agreement with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1994, which unequivocally dismissed all Jordanian claims to the West Bank. In part, the agreement reads:

“The boundary, as set out in Annex I (a), is the permanent, secure and recognized international boundary between Israel and Jordan, without prejudice to the status of any territories that came under Israeli military government control in 1967.”

The Palestinians have never had a country in the West Bank, Gaza or the Golan Heights. In fact, the opportunity to establish both an Arab and Jewish state from the British Mandate was rejected outright in 1948, when Arab armies attacked the newly declared state of Israel and have been at war ever since. The West Bank land currently in dispute between Israel and the Palestinian Authority belonged to Jordan prior to 1967. However, their cessation of claiming the land as their own leaves the final status of the West Bank to be decided by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This is another key treaty and piece of history that Abbas failed to mention in his General Assembly address.

A failure to end violence

The fourth promise Abbas made was: “Our people will continue their popular peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation and its settlement and apartheid policies and its construction of the racist annexation Wall, and they receive support for their resistance…”

The PLO resistance movement was founded in armed struggle. Rockets continue to rain on southern Israel from Hamas controlled Gaza and Hezbollah is perpetuating anti-Israel hatred in Lebanon and Syria, while replenishing their arsenal in what will surely result in another attack on Israel. The West Bank is not immune to terror activity either. In February 2011, one of the more gruesome terror attacks conducted by Islamists from the West Bank took place in the Israeli town of Itamar. Two terrorists infiltrated a Jewish home on the holy Sabbath and butchered five family members, killing both parents and their three-month old, four year old, and eleven year old children. These savage murderers were met with celebration in the Gaza Strip and mockery from Abbas’s government that “violence produces more violence.” This type of deliberate violence perpetuated by Palestinian terrorists is what caused Netanyahu to respond that “President Abbas just said on this podium that the Palestinians are armed only with their hopes and dreams. Yeah, hopes, dreams and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran, not to mention the river of lethal weapons now flowing into Gaza from the Sinai, from Libya, and from elsewhere.”

Delegitimizing Israel

Ironically, the last point Abbas made on behalf of the Palestinian people was to promise not to delegitimize Israel: “Our efforts are not aimed at isolating Israel or de-legitimizing it; rather we want to gain legitimacy for the cause of the people of Palestine. We only aim to de-legitimize the settlement activities and the occupation and apartheid and the logic of ruthless force, and we believe that all the countries of the world stand with us in this regard.”

Yet, the two glaring attempts by Abbas to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish homeland and a sovereign state appear when he fails to recognize any historical Jewish connections to the land of Judea and Samaria and when he claims that Israel has been “occupying” the land for 63 years. Abbas deliberately leaves out Judaism when discussing the religious significance of the holy land where he says, “I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people in the homeland and in the Diaspora, to say, after 63 years of suffering of the ongoing Nakba: Enough. It is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence.”

Netanyahu called for Abbas to “stop walking around this issue.” He said, “Recognize the Jewish state, and make peace with us….we will know that they’re ready for compromise and for peace when they start taking Israel’s security requirements seriously and when they stop denying our historical connection to our ancient homeland. I often hear them accuse Israel of Judaizing Jerusalem. That’s like accusing America of Americanizing Washington, or the British of Anglicizing London. You know why we’re called ‘Jews’? Because we come from Judea.”

Conclusion

Since the birth of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, Arab nations have been at constant war with the lone Jewish State. However, Israel has consistently devised drastic measures to create peace, at great cost. Palestinian leaders have denied all of them.

Some may say Israel has been far too accommodating. As with the shifting sands of the desert, the United Nations turned on Israel in the 1970s and ‘80s embracing the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” and granting it observer status in 1974. Until the 1991 Madrid Conference, the U.S. Department of State justifiably had placed the PLO on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Accordingly, in his address to the General Assembly, Netanyahu stated that “The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel and then get their state. But I also want to tell you this. After such a peace agreement is signed, Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. We will be the first.”

Israel is determined to create peace with the Palestinians; their only wish is to do so with secure borders that do not threaten the livelihood of its citizens. That is not an extremist or racist position, but one of dignity and well within the boundaries of international law. At the end of his speech on Friday, Netanyahu extended an open invitation to Abbas to meet anytime and anywhere. He welcomed him to Jerusalem, said he would travel to Ramallah and even suggested meeting that very day since they not only were both in the same city but the same building. Abbas rejected all of these calls for dialogue. Netanyahu closed his remarks by referring to an old Arab saying, “that you cannot applaud with one hand. Well, the same is true of peace. I cannot make peace alone. I cannot make peace without you.”

Golda Meir, a former Israeli Prime Minister, is famous for saying that if the “Palestinians put down their arms tomorrow there would be peace. If Israel puts down her arms tomorrow, there would be no Israel.” Israel will remain at the negotiating table, but the creation of what has morphed into the call for a Palestinian State by the UN Security Council, without the approval of Israel will only create another Arab State determined to destroy Israel.


Aaron Marcus is a graduate of the National Journalism Center having served his internship as an editorial assistant at The Washington Times. He is currently a columnist for The Daily Targum at Rutgers University where he is an undergraduate student. Mr. Marcus is a contributor to

SFPPR News & Analysis.