Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has given Israel one year to withdraw from occupied territory and threatened to withdraw recognition Israel if it failed to do so.
In a virtual address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday, Abbas said he would no longer recognise Israel based on pre-1967 borders – a cornerstone of three decades of failed peace efforts – if it refused to withdraw from the territories Palestinians want for a future state.
“We must state that Israel, the occupying power, has one year to withdraw from the Palestinian territory it occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem,” Abbas said.
“If this is not achieved, why maintain recognition of Israel based on the 1967 borders?”
The Palestinian leader also called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to “convene an international peace conference” and expressed his willingness “to work throughout the year” on solving the final status of the states of Israel and Palestine “in accordance with United Nations resolutions”.
Speaking against a backdrop of maps of the region showing Israel’s territorial expansion over several decades, Abbas accused Israel of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing”, using terms rarely employed for the sake of ongoing negotiations on a two-state solution.
He added that the Palestinians were ready to go to the International Court of Justice “on the issue of the legality of the occupation of the land of the Palestinian state”.
Israel has brushed aside the Palestinian leader’s demands. Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, said “those who truly support peace and negotiations do not threaten delusional ultimatums from the UN platform as he did in his speech”.
Erdan said Abbas’s speech had “proved once again that he is no longer relevant”.
The peace process to achieve a two-state solution has been deadlocked for years.
Palestinians say Israel’s proposals would fail to grant them full statehood or resolve other core issues, including the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.
Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in the 1967 war and has not put an end to its illegal occupation of the seized territories, which the Palestinians want for their future state.
Palestinian recognition of Israel has been the foundation of the 1993 Oslo accords, a landmark moment in the pursuit of peace between the two sides.
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, widely seen by the international community as the only way to resolve the conflict.
Abbas has been facing backlash at home. Palestinians – frustrated by his long and increasingly authoritarian rule, as well as security cooperation with Israel – have been staging protests following the death of an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority while in its custody.