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 U.N. General Assembly.
His remarks came shortly before Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to speak.
Israel conquered the eastern part of Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Mideast War. It later annexed it but the move has not been internationally recognized. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to the capital of their future state in the West Bank.
Abbas also said he has opened talks on a new bid for international recognition at the United Nations, 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.
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.
Abbas insisted that the new quest for recognition was "not seeking to delegitimize Israel, but rather establish a state that should be established: Palestine."
Palestinian officials said their bid is likely to be submitted on Nov. 29.
Abbas said on Thursday that Israeli settlement expansion meant time was running out for a two-state solution.
"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 U.N. General Assembly.
But he warned the 193-nation assembly that Israel was "promising the Palestinian people a new catastrophe" if it continues with its current Jewish settlement policies in the occupied West Bank.
The so-called two-state solution involves the creation of a state of Palestine to exist peacefully alongside Israel.
The status upgrade Abbas plans will not bring true independence any nearer. It will also anger the United States as well as Israel, which is likely to retaliate with painful economic countermeasures.
Abbas made clear that seeking an upgrade of Palestinian membership from the current status as an observer "entity" was not aimed at harming Israel.
"In our endeavor, we do not seek to delegitimize an existing state — that is Israel — but to assert the state that must be realized — that is Palestine," he said.
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. The Palestinians say the Jewish settlement building is killing off chances of them ever creating a coherent state.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday the two-state solution was the only sustainable option for peace. But he said the continued growth of Israeli settlements meant that "the door may be closing, for good."
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