Abbas tells U.N. Israeli actions could lead to 'one state'

·3 min read

By Ali Sawafta and Zainah El-Haroun

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) -Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel on Friday of destroying the two-state solution with actions he said could lead Palestinians to demand equal rights within one binational state comprising Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly via video link from the West Bank, Abbas urged countries to act to save the two-state formula that for decades has been the bedrock of diplomacy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Abbas said Israel was "destroying the prospect of a political settlement based on the two-state solution" through its settlements on West Bank land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Most countries view the settlements as illegal, a position Israel disputes.

Abbas threatened to rescind the Palestinians' recognition of Israel if it does not withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem within a year.

"If this is not achieved, why maintain recognition of Israel based on the 1967 borders? Why maintain this recognition?" Abbas asked.

Gilad Erdan, Israel's ambassador to the United States, denounced 85-year-old Abbas's comments, accusing the Palestinians of refusing peace with Israel.

"Abu Mazen’s (Abbas) speech was full of lies," he wrote on Twitter. "Those who truly support peace and negotiations do not threaten delusional ultimatums."

In his U.N. address, Abbas accused Israel of imposing apartheid on Palestinians, repeating an accusation that Israel rejects.

"Circumstances on the ground will inevitably impose equal and full political rights for all on the land of historical Palestine, within one state. In all cases, Israel has to choose," Abbas said from Ramallah, the seat of his Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the West Bank.

Critics say internal Palestinian divisions have also contributed to the deadlock in U.S.-sponsored peace talks, which collapsed in 2014.

Under interim peace accords with Israel, Abbas's Palestinian Authority was meant to exercise control in Gaza as well. But his Islamist rivals Hamas seized the coastal enclave in 2007 and years of on-and-off talks have failed to break their impasse.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a far-rightist who sits atop a cross-partisan coalition, will address the assembly on Monday. He opposes Palestinian statehood but his government has vowed to avoid sensitive decisions towards the Palestinians and instead focus on economic issues.

While some Palestinians and Israelis support the idea of a single binational state, most have very different ideas of what that entity would look like and how it would be governed.

Most analysts contend a single state would not be viable, for religious, political and demographic reasons. Israeli governments have viewed a one-state concept as undermining the essence of an independent Jewish state.

U.S. President Joe Biden reiterated his support for the two-state solution during his own U.N. address on Tuesday, saying it would ensure "Israel's future as a Jewish, democratic state living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state."

(Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Zainah El-Haroun,Editing by Rami Ayyub, Nick Macfie and Grant McCool)

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