Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will seek to have the Palestinians' UN status upgraded to a sovereign country and cautioned that Israeli settlement expansion meant time was running out for a two-state solution.
One year after his emotional bid for full membership of the United Nations, Abbas returned to the UN General Assembly to warn that Israel's tactics were a sign that it "rejects the two-state solution."
Abbas is looking for a less-ambitious status upgrade at the world body that would make it a "non-member state" like the Vatican.
The Palestinians' current status is that of an "observer entity." If Abbas gets his way, that would change to "observer state."
Upgraded status for a Palestinian state could be uncomfortable for Israel. Being registered as a state rather than an entity would mean the Palestinians could join bodies such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) and file a raft of complaints against Israel for its continued occupation.
Call for binding resolution
He called on the UN Security Council on Thursday to pass a binding resolution setting out a path to end the two-year deadlock in talks between the Palestinians and Israel.
"Despite all the complexities of the prevailing reality and all the frustrations that abound, we say before the international community there is still a chance - maybe the last - to save the two-state solution and to salvage peace," Abbas told the UN General Assembly.
But he warned the 193-nation assembly that Israel was "promising the Palestinian people a new catastrophe" if it continued with its current Jewish settlement policies in the occupied West Bank.
Abbas said he would seek a vote at the UN General Assembly in the coming months to approve Palestine as a "non-member state of the United Nations."
As a permanent Security Council member, the United States can veto any council resolution backing full membership for the Palestinians.
But no country can block a resolution in the General Assembly, where an overwhelming majority of the 193 member states would back Abbas.
"We are confident that the vast majority of the countries of the world support our endeavor, aimed at salvaging the chances for a just peace," Abbas said.
Abbas said that for the past year Israel, "the occupying power, has persisted with its settlement campaign, focusing on Jerusalem and its environs."
"It is a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people via the demolition of their homes and prevention of their construction, the revocation of residency rights, the denial of basic services," he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke shortly after Abbas and reiterated his call for direct talks. He also made clear he was not pleased with the Palestinian address, dismissing Abbas’s speech as "libelous”.
"We won't solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the UN," he said. "That's not the way to solve it. We won't solve our conflict with unilateral declarations of statehood."
"We have to sit together, negotiate together, and reach a mutual compromise, in which a demilitarised Palestinian state recognises the one and only Jewish State," Netanyahu said in a speech that was mostly focused on Iran's nuclear programme.
There have been no direct Palestinian talks with Israel since 2010, when the Palestinians refused to resume negotiations unless the Israeli government suspended settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.