RAMALLAH, OCCUPIED WEST BANK – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned that his Palestinian Authority (PA) will withdraw its recognition of Israel and take the Jewish state to the International Criminal Court if Israel doesn’t withdraw from the occupied West Bank.
Abbas made his threats in a pre-recorded speech at the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday, asking why should the PA continue to recognise Israel if it continued to occupy Palestinian land.
In his talk, Abbas also appealed to the international community to pressure Israel to comply with its commitments under international law and specifically the 1993 Oslo Peace accords.
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is contrary to international law and most countries refuse to recognise the occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank as well as Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem.
While Israel withdrew its military from Gaza it continues to control Gaza’s airspace, coastline, most of the border crossings as well as the population registry.
Abbas’ threats follow the continued stagnation of the Mideast peace process and Israel’s continued settlement building in the West Bank with recent announcements of the construction of new settlement apartments.
The West Bank is divided into areas A, B and C. Israel reserves Area C, comprising 60 percent of the territory, mostly for Israeli settlements, Area B is jointly administered by the PA and Israel, while Area A is under PA control.
Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, most of the territory was meant to be eventually returned to the Palestinians but the peace process has remained frozen for years.
Abbas’ threats, however, are not being taken seriously by anybody, including most Palestinians.
The PA has made repeated threats over the years about stopping its security coordination with the Israeli military but this never happened.
Israeli analysts have already asserted that Abbas knows that the Israeli government will never withdraw to the 1967 borders within a year, if ever.
Defence Minister Benny Gantz already stated that the Palestinians have to accept that, while Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the state of Israel was for the Jewish people first and foremost, which implies priority rights for the Israeli population.
Lapid also said the conflict with the Palestinians in Gaza has to be managed but that the political impasse couldn’t be resolved at this point in time.
Abbas’s popularity is at an all-time low with a recent poll stating he had just over 20 percent of support from Palestinians.
His popularity plummeted after he cancelled elections earlier in the year, afraid that he would lose to his political opponents.
His term in office expired years ago but no comprehensive elections have been held since Hamas won the 2006 elections.
The arrest of PA political opponents by PA security forces, including the beating to death of Nizar Binat, a particularly vociferous critic of Abbas, and the brutal suppression of protests have all contributed to Abbas’ unpopularity.
Many Palestinians believe his threats at the UN are an attempt to keep the PA politically relevant and for his government to be seen to be doing something credible about the stalled political situation.