NEW YORK – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of ethnic cleansing Thursday for building settlements in east Jerusalem.
"It is a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people via the demolition of their homes," Abbas said in his speech to the UN General Assembly.
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His remarks came shortly before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the assembly.
"During the past months, attacks by terrorist militias of Israeli settlers have become a daily reality, with at least 535 attacks perpetrated since the beginning of this year. We are facing relentless waves of attacks against our people, our mosques, churches and monasteries, and our homes and schools; they are unleashing their venom against our trees, fields, crops and properties, and our people have become fixed targets for acts of killing and abuse with the complete collusion of the occupying forces and the Israeli Government," Abbas said.
"The escalation of settler attacks should not surprise anyone, for it is the inherent byproduct of the continuation of occupation and a government policy that deliberately fosters the settlements and settlers and deems their satisfaction to be an absolute priority," he said.
"And, it is the inherent byproduct of the racist climate fueled by a culture of incitement in the Israeli curriculum and extremist declarations, which are rife with hatred and are rooted in a series of discriminatory laws created and enacted over the years against the Palestinian people, as well as by the security apparatus and courts, which provide excuse after excuse for the settlers' crimes and for their accelerated release should one of them happen to be arrested," he added.
Abbas also said he has opened talks on a new bid for international recognition at the UN, but didn't specify exactly when he will ask the General Assembly to vote.
"Intensive consultations with the various regional organizations and the state members" were underway, he said.
The Palestinians will apply to the General Assembly for nonmember state status.
Abbas at UNGA (Photo: AFP)
That stands in sharp contrast to last year, when they asked the Security Council to admit them as a full member state, but the bid failed. Palestinian officials said their bid is likely to be submitted on November 29.
Abbas insisted that the new quest for recognition was "not seeking to delegitimize Israel, but rather establish a state that should be established: Palestine."
'Palestinians are angry'
Abbas said he was "speaking on behalf of an angry people," who believed they were not winning their rights despite adopting a "culture of peace and international resolutions."
"Israel gets rewarded while continues the policies of war, occupation and settlements," he said.
The leader also accused Israel of seeking to "continue its occupation of East Jerusalem, and annex vast parts of West Bank ... and refuses to discuss seriously the Palestinian refugees issue."
He claimed that Israeli actions threatened to undermine the Palestinian Authority to the point "which could lead to its collapse."
Later in his speech, Abbas said: "At present, 77% of the Palestinian people are under the age of 35 years. Although they did not experience the horrors of Al-Nakba, they know very well the details of its horrendous facts from the accounts told to them by their parents and grandparents who endured it. And, they are suffering its ongoing effects until today as a result of the practices of the occupation and the settlers on a land that is diminishing and a horizon before them that is blocked against their simple, ordinary dreams. They see their homeland and, their present and future vulnerable to continued usurpation and they say firmly: we will not allow a new Nakba to happen.
"My people will continue their epic steadfastness and eternal survival in their beloved land, every inch of which carries the evidence and landmarks affirming their roots and unique connection throughout ancient history. There is no homeland for us except Palestine, and there is no land for us but Palestine. Our people will continue to build the institutions of their State and will continue to strive to achieve national reconciliation to restore the unity of our nation, people and institutions via resorting to the ballot boxes, which will confirm our people's pluralistic democratic choice," he said.
Palestinian officials said that their bid for recognition will likely be submitted to the General Assembly on Nov. 29, after the US presidential election. Abbas has sought to avoid entangling the Palestinian statehood bid in US presidential politics.
Appealing to other nations for their support, Abbas asked world leaders to help avoid a new "catastrophe" in Palestine. "Support the establishment of the free state of Palestine now, and let peace win before it's too late," he said.
"We have started intensive consultations with the various regional organizations and the state members in order for the General Assembly to take a decision granting the state of Palestine the status of nonmember state during this UN session," he said.
Ahead of the General Assembly, Palestinian officials met on Monday with Jewish leaders in New York.
At last year's General Assembly, Abbas took center stage with his attempt to win full membership to the world body. However, that application failed to win enough support in the UN Security Council.
Palestinians did win membership last year of UNESCO, the Paris-based UN cultural agency – despite the objections of Israel and the US.
AP contributed to this report
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