Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared before world leaders Wednesday that he is no longer bound by agreements signed with Israel, and called on the United Nations to provide international protection for the Palestinian people.
It was Abbas' most serious warning yet that he might walk away from engagement with Israel and dissolve the Palestinian Authority, although he stopped short of accompanying his threat with a deadline.
The 80-year-old leader had threatened to drop a "bombshell" in the speech — prompting speculation he would sever ties with Israel over its settlement expansion and other hard-line policies.
On Wednesday, he said that Israel's refusal to commit to agreements signed "render us an authority without real powers."
"As long as Israel refuses to cease settlement activities and to the release of the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners in accordance with our agreements, they leave us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements, while Israel continuously violates them," Abbas said.
"We therefore declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these agreements and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power," he declared.
Abbas' tough talk could be an attempt to mask his political weakness. Hopes of setting up a Palestinian state have been derailed, and there are calls for the leader to resign and dissolve the Palestinian Authority. Without a specific deadline for taking those steps, Abbas left himself room for diplomatic maneuver to refocus the attention of the international community on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In his speech, he accused Israel of "repeated, systematic incursions upon Al-Aqsa Mosque aimed at imposing a new reality," warning that such actions create an explosive situation.
"It is no longer useful to waste time in negotiations for the sake of negotiations; what is required is to mobilize international efforts to oversee an end to the occupation in line with the resolutions of international legitimacy," he said. "Until then, I call upon the United Nations to provide international protection for the Palestinian people in accordance with international humanitarian law."
In a harshly worded essay ahead of his Wednesday address to the United Nations, the Palestinian president said a new multilateral approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is needed since direct negotiations with Israel have repeatedly failed.
Mahmoud Abbas said the model should be based instead on the type of negotiations that took place in the Balkans, Libya and Iran. Several rounds negotiations, often with American mediation, have failed reach a peace accord and Abbas shunned renewing them.
"The peace process must be multilateral. The same pattern of negotiations imposed for years will not work because Israel is the occupying power," he wrote in an op-ed in The Huffington Post. "We cannot directly negotiate with a power that has this level of control and exhibits such contempt for the rights and existence of our people."
While Abbas' Palestinian Authority rules over most of the West Bank Palestinian population, Israel still controls much of the territory. Israel accuses Abbas and his predecessor Yasser Arafat of rejecting far-reaching Israeli peace proposals and inciting further violence.
In his op-ed, Abbas claimed it was Israel that has negotiated in bad faith and accused it of "blatant ethnic cleansing."
There was no immediate comment from Israel.
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