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Israeli, Palestinian leaders air differences at United Nations

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the General Debate of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly at UN headquarters in Manhattan on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. Photo Credit: EPA / Justin Lane

UNITED NATIONS — The leaders of the Israeli and Palestinian people once again aired their differences before diplomats assembled at the UN General Assembly and accused each other of stalling the important talks that would create peace between them.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel has avoided substantive talks that would pave the way for the elusive two-state solution where both countries would live side by side in peace.

Netanyahu beckoned Abbas to begin talks right away, as he has done in previous speeches during the General Debate, adding that Israel has been negotiating in good faith.

During his address Thursday, Abbas said Israel has stepped up settlements that he — and the UN — has said are a clear violation of international law.

“It must cease all of its settlement colonization activities and aggressions against our cities, villages and refugee camps,” Abbas said of Israel. “It must cease its policies of collective punishment and its demolition of Palestinian homes. It must cease its extrajudicial executions and cease the arrest of our people, and must release the thousands of our prisoners and detainees.”

Abbas said Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, though Israel has withdrawn physically from Gaza, and allowed settlers to develop communities on the territory.

“I am compelled to again warn that what the Israeli government is doing in pursuit of its expansionist settlement plans will destroy whatever possibility and hopes are left for the two-state solution on the 1967 borders,” he said. “The settlements are illegal in every aspect and any manifestation.”

He accused Israeli governments of derailing all initiatives over the decades to resolve the stubborn crisis.

“All of these Israeli policies, actions and measures are the reasons for the failure of all international efforts, particularly that of the international quartet for the past 13 years, just as Israel has sabotaged the efforts of successive American administrations over the decades,” he said.

The quartet consists of the United States, the UN, Russia and the European Union.

Netanyahu said Thursday his state’s counterpart, the Palestinian leadership, has encouraged terrorist acts and launched bombs into Israel’s cities.

Moreover, Netanyahu said, the conflict between the two peoples stems not from the skirmishes over settlements, but mainly from Palestinians’ refusal to accept the Jewish state altogether.

“This remains the core of the conflict,” Netanyahu said, speaking after Abbas on the third day of the General Debate. “The persistent refusal of the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state.”

Netanyahu reminded the assembly that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and “we didn’t get peace, we got thousands of rockets.”

Gaza is controlled by Hamas, a Palestinian political faction that has differed sharply with the wishes of Abbas’ administration of the Palestinian Authority and has, indeed, launched rockets into Israel, most notably during a 50-day war with Israel in 2014. During that conflict, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, mostly civilians, UN officials have said, while about 70 Israelis died, mostly soldiers.

Netanyahu also condemned Palestinians’ efforts over the years to establish Palestine as a member state of the UN as an end-run around the hard talks necessary to resolve so-called Final Status issues with Israel including the fate of refugees, borders, and security arrangements.

The State of Palestine now enjoys observer status, the same as the Holy See.

In recent years, Palestinians have sought and obtained recognition from other nations and membership in UN agencies.

“The road to peace runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not through New York,” Netanyahu said, referring to the two capitals of Israelis and Palestinians and the UN. The Israeli leader said he had invited Abbas to speak in the Knesset and Netanyahu has offered to speak to the Palestinians in Ramallah.

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