Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s repeated calls for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to “end the occupation, make peace” were met with rounds of applause during a talk in New York City Monday night.
Speaking at Cooper Union university in downtown Manhattan, Abbas called for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but didn’t miss the opportunity to toss out a few incendiary remarks. He likened the United States’ relationship with Israel to letting your friends drive drunk, which drew laughs from the audience.
He questioned why the US supported Israel throughout the conflict which devastated Gaza, and why Israel was not taken to task for its attacks on UNRWA facilities.
The PA president reiterated that the Palestinian Authority recognizes the State of Israel and its right to exist, but that “we are the only people on earth still living under occupation. Not acceptable,” which drew yet another round of applause.
“We have all made mistakes, but today, I say, let us all move forward,” he added.
Noting the university’s proximity to Ground Zero, Abbas said he and his people were saddened by the attacks on American soil, but that the perpetrators did not represent Muslims writ large.
He also called members of al-Qaida and “the barbarians of ISIS” unfaithful Muslims from a small corner of Islam, and asked the audience not to judge his people based on the actions of extremists.
On several occasions, the PA president mentioned that recently he had prayed with former president Shimon Peres and Pope Francis for an answer to the conflict.
Do not “underestimate the power of your youth,” he told the crowd of mostly college students. “You can do a lot.” He called upon the crowd not to lose faith in the possibility of peace in the Middle East: “Will you build this world I prayed for?” Abbas is in New York this week for the UN General Assembly. In November 2012, the General Assembly awarded the Palestinian Authority non-member observer status, making the territory eligible to apply for membership in the International Criminal Court, where it could bring war crimes charges against Israel.
Time and again Palestinian officials have threatened to take such action, but, according to reports, earlier this month Abbas blocked the application to the ICC submitted by Hamas.