Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s call on Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines in one year has elicited jeers from several Palestinians, who renewed their appeal to him to resign.
Abbas issued his ultimatum to Israel on Friday in a pre-recorded speech before the United Nations General Assembly’s 76th session in New York.
Referring to his plan to convene an international peace conference under the auspices of the Quartet members – the US, European Union, Russia and the UN – Abbas said: “To ensure our initiative is not open-ended, we must state that Israel, the occupying power, has one year to withdraw from the Palestinian territory it occupied in 1967, including east Jerusalem, and we are ready to work throughout this year on the delineation of borders and solving all final status issues under the auspices of the international Quartet and in accordance with United Nations resolutions.”
Abbas warned that if the demand is not met, the Palestinians will revoke their recognition of Israel and go to the International Court of Justice.
Addressing Israeli leaders, Abbas said: “Do not oppress and corner the Palestinian people and deprive them of dignity and the right to their land and state, as you will destroy everything. Our patience and the patience of our people have limits. This is our land, our Jerusalem, our Palestinian identity, and we shall defend it until the occupier leaves.”
Senior PA officials and the ruling Fatah faction heaped praise on Abbas, describing his speech as “courageous, unprecedented and historic” and saying it represented a “milestone” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh hailed the speech and said it “placed the international community in front of its responsibilities to end the Israeli occupation.”
Shtayyeh described the speech as a “road map to end the occupation within a year,” adding that it should lead to “either a [Palestinian] state on the borders of 1967 or a state on the borders of 1947 in accordance with [UN] Partition Resolution 181.”
He was referring to the UN General Assembly resolution that called for the partition of the British-ruled Palestine Mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The resolution was accepted by the Jews in Palestine, but rejected by the Arabs.
Several Fatah officials, including Jibril Rajoub, also praised Abbas’s address and said that his statements expressed the wishes of all Palestinians.
Many Palestinians, however, scoffed at Abbas’s speech, especially his one-year ultimatum to Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines, including east Jerusalem.
The PA president did not say anything new in his address to the UN General Assembly, they argued.
Shortly after the speech, social media activists tweeted under the hashtags “Abbas does not represent me” and “Go away.” Some asked sarcastically whether he was planning to declare a new uprising or return to the armed struggle if Israel failed to meet the ultimatum.
“The old man’s speech represents less than 19% of our people,” commented Palestinian writer Iyad al-Qarra.
A poll published last week by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed that almost 80% of the Palestinian public demand the resignation of Abbas.
Some Palestinians attached images of laughing emojis to posts containing Abbas’s call on Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines within one year.
“Wow, I’m sure the Israelis are in a state of hysteria because of President Abbas’s ultimatum,” said Akram Maslamani, a university student from the West Bank, in a snide remark. “He woke up after all these years to discover that Israel is still occupying our land. This man has become a joke.”
“Abbas in a nutshell: He acknowledged the failure of the policies of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah, that the occupation continues to deny the rights of our people, that betting on the international community has failed and that Palestinian diplomacy has failed,” commented Palestinian journalist Ayman Abed.
Prominent Palestinian political analyst Dr. Fayez Abu Shamaleh said that prior to the speech, the Palestinian media created the impression that Abbas was going to drop a bombshell.
“I followed the Palestinian Authority’s media before Mahmoud Abbas’s speech,” Abu Shamaleh said. “They were talking about a ‘Day of Resurrection’ at the General Assembly, about the surprises that the president would make, about the Israelis who would flee the region, and about the people waiting in front of the satellite channels to watch their president. The truth is that 99% of the Palestinian people did not follow the speech and did not care.”
Palestinian lawyer Hasan Mezyed said that this was not the first time that Abbas had directed threats against Israel. Mezyed pointed out that Abbas has in the past failed to carry out decisions by Palestinian institutions to halt security coordination with Israel.
Social media user Raed Abu Jarad contemptuously remarked: “Mahmoud Abbas gives the occupation a full year to withdraw from the occupied territories, otherwise the response will be loud: ‘Leave us alone, go away, enough is enough and our patience is limited.’”
Political activist Issa Amro described Abbas’s speech as “weak,” saying it does not represent the aspirations of the Palestinians.
Amro took Abbas to task for failing to label Israel as an “apartheid” state.
Addressing the president, he said: “What is needed to register your name in history and end your life in an honorable manner is a real fight against corruption, reform of the PLO and Fatah and reform of everything you destroyed.”
Hamas and other Palestinian factions also criticized Abbas’s speech, but focused on his claim that he is keen on holding general elections and that Palestinians enjoy democracy and pluralism.
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said the speech was a “reproduction of the failed policies” of the PA and “a clear recognition of Abbas’s inability to achieve anything through the Oslo Accords.”
Barhoum dismissed Abbas’s talk about democracy and pluralism as “false.” “The political arrests, torture and killing of political opponents in the West Bank are the biggest evidence of the [PA’s] totalitarian regime,” he said.
The Al-Ahrar Movement, a network of Hamas-backed Fatah dissidents in the Gaza Strip, said that Abbas’s speech did not carry anything new, but was a “continuation of the rhetoric of helplessness and failure.”