Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas called on Wednesday for an end to the “apartheid” that he said Israel had imposed on the Palestinians.
Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, Abbas pledged to give peace efforts undertaken by U.S. President Donald Trump a chance, but warned the new U.S.-led drive must not jettison the two-state solution. “If the two-state solution were to be destroyed due to the creation of a one-state reality with two systems—apartheid—…this would be failure,” Abbas said in a nearly 45-minute speech. “Can the world accept an apartheid regime in the 21st century?” he asked.
Quoting Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and a staunch supporter of Palestinian statehood, Abbas told the assembly that the international community must do for the Palestinians what was achieved for South Africa. “We are entrusted and you are entrusted to end apartheid in Palestine,” he said.
Taking the podium a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Abbas slammed Israel over the construction of new settlements “everywhere,” saying they were putting the two-state solution in jeopardy. “There is no place left for the state of Palestine and this is not acceptable,” he said.
The United Nations considers Israeli settlements illegal under international law and has repeatedly called for a halt to their expansion on land earmarked to be part of a future Palestinian state. In December, the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding an end to the construction of Jewish outposts in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem. The resolution passed after the United States under the previous administration of Barack Obama declined to use its veto and instead abstained, angering then president-elect Trump.
Trump has distanced himself from the decades-old stance of previous administrations in support of a two-state solution and has said it will be up to the parties to decide on the outcome of a negotiated settlement. Seeking to step up the pressure on Israel, Abbas called on the United Nations to release a list drawn up by its human rights council of Israeli firms doing business in the Israeli settlements that could trigger a boycott.
The Palestinian leader vowed to push for full recognition of statehood at the United Nations, a move that would require approval from the Security Council where the United States, Israel’s key ally, holds veto power.
Five years ago, the Palestinians were upgraded to non-member observer status at the United Nations, which falls short of full membership in the world body. “The two-state solution is today in jeopardy. We cannot as Palestinians stand still in the face of this threat,” said Abbas.
Abbas spoke at the assembly after meeting Trump, who said he was “working very hard with everybody involved toward peace” but offered little detail.
The U.S. president confidently declared that there was a “pretty good shot—maybe the best shot ever” to make a deal even as he acknowledged that peace between Israel and the Palestinians was “the toughest of all.”
Trump’s aides—led by his Middle East envoy and son-in-law Jared Kushner and senior international negotiations aide Jason Greenblatt—have been ferrying between leaders from the two sides in recent months. At the meeting with Trump, Abbas said some 20 meetings held so far between the Palestinians and the new U.S. administration showed “the seriousness” of Trump’s peace effort.
The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has been comatose since 2014 when a U.S. push collapsed.