NEW YORK (AFP) – Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas said on Tuesday that his bid to secure international recognition for a Palestinian state was no “stunt” and would contribute to peace efforts with Israel.
Plans to demand UN recognition of a Palestinian state in lands occupied by Israel in 1967 have drawn criticism from the United States and Israel, which have insisted the decades-old conflict be resolved through negotiations.
“Our quest for recognition as a state should not be seen as a stunt; too many of our men and women have been lost for us to engage in such political theater,” Abbas wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times.
“We go to the United Nations now to secure the right to live free in the remaining 22 percent of our historic homeland because we have been negotiating with the state of Israel for 20 years without coming any closer to realizing a state of our own,” he wrote.
He was referring to the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, including Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, territories seized by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
“We cannot wait indefinitely while Israel continues to send more settlers to the occupied West Bank and denies Palestinians access to most of our land and holy places, particularly in Jerusalem.
“Neither political pressure nor promises of rewards by the United States have stopped Israel?s settlement program.”
Abbas said a Palestinian state would be ready to negotiate the “core issues” of the conflict with Israel.
“Palestine would be negotiating from the position of one United Nations member whose territory is militarily occupied by another, however, and not as a vanquished people ready to accept whatever terms are put in front of us.”
He said recognition would also “pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.”
Fourteen people were killed and hundreds wounded on Sunday when Palestinian refugees crossed into Israel from Syria, others sought to cross from Lebanon and police clashed with protesters in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians had been marking the anniversary of Israel’s creation in 1948, an event they refer to as the “nakba”, or “catastrophe”, because it resulted in some 700,000 people fleeing or being driven out of what is now the Jewish state. Abbas himself fled from the northern town of Safed.