The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has called on the United Nations security council to support a resolution setting a clear deadline for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories as he in effect declared the US-sponsored Oslo peace process over.
In a hard-hitting speech to the UN general assembly in New York, he also accused Israel of “war crimes carried out before the eyes of the world” during the recent 50-day Gaza war that ended in a ceasefire on 26 August, adding that Israel had “perpetrated genocide”.
“We will not forget and we will not forgive, and we will not allow war criminals to escape punishment,” Abbas declared. Palestinian officials were expected to start working with members of the security council to seek backing for a resolution setting a timeframe for the ending of what he called the “racist and colonial” occupation – a resolution certain to be opposed by the US.
According to diplomatic sources, the proposed resolution has caused a rift with the US, which had been working for some months on another resolution with the Israelis, Jordanians and Qataris aimed at bolstering the Gaza ceasefire with an exchange of Palestinian security guarantees for some loosening of Israel’s economic stranglehold.
The official US reaction described the was comments as “offensive and deeply disappointing”.
State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “Such provocative statements are counterproductive and undermine efforts to create a positive atmosphere and restore trust between the parties.”
Abbas’s speech drew a furious response from senior Israeli officials, with foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman describing it as “diplomatic terrorism”.
“Abu Mazen’s [a nickname for Abbas] statements to the UN general assembly clearly illustrate that he doesn’t want to be – and cannot be – a partner to a diplomatic settlement,” Lieberman said. “There’s a reason that Abu Mazen entered into a joint government with Hamas.”