Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has formally asked the United Nations to grant a Palestinian state full membership into the organization, telling the General Assembly in New York on Friday that no one "with a shred of conscience" would reject the bid.
To rounds of applause and whistles, and a standing ovation from some delegates in the chamber, Abbas walked to the podium just after noon ET to address the assembly during a program that began at 9 a.m., following the speeches of about a dozen other world leaders.
Technical problems with Netanyahu UN speech
Due to technical problems in the feed from the United Nations in New York, we are not able to present the speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in one complete file. Also, portions of the video are missing and edits were made to remove blank portions of the tape. We apologize for this and will provide complete video if it becomes available.
In a nearly 45-minute address and despite an intense U.S.-led effort to get Abbas to back off presenting his bid for UN membership, Abbas confirmed he had submitted it to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and waved the application in the air for all the delegations to see.
"I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine … to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people … to say after 63 years of suffering… enough, enough, enough," Abbas said earlier in his address.
"I don’t believe anyone with a shred of conscience can reject our application for a full membership in the UN and our admission as an independent state."
'The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel, and then get their state.'—Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister
Abbas added "it is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence. The time has come to end the suffering and the plight of millions of Palestinians and refugees.
"Our people will continue their popular peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation," he said. "We want to gain legitimacy for the cause of the people of Palestine."
Abbas said the Palestinians are willing to continue to work toward peace with Israel.
"We extend our hands to the Israeli government and the Israeli people for peacemaking.… Let us urgently build together a future for our children where they can enjoy freedom, security and prosperity."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who followed Abbas on the podium, said his country extends peace to all nations, but "most especially I extend my hand to the Palestinian people with whom we seek a just and lasting peace."
However, he said, true peace can only be achieved through "direct negotiations," not through UN resolutions, and it's time for the Palestinians to acknowledge that "Israel is the Jewish state."
Palestinians, Netanyahu said, "should live in a free state of their own, but they should be ready for compromise" and "start taking Israel's security concerns seriously."
The Palestinian application was moved to the Security Council, the UN comfirmed mid-afternoon. The council will meet Monday on the application.
The Quartet of of Mideast mediators —the U.S., the UN, the European Union and Russia — are expected to make a comment later in the day.
UN decision may take months
It may take weeks or months for the bid to get the UN thumbs-up or thumbs-down.
"The Security Council won't rush at this one; it will delay, take its time, sit on it in the hope that somehow the pressure, and even the danger in all of this, will be enough to prod Israel and the Palestinians to get back to the negotiating table," notes Michael Colton, a CBC correspondent in New York.
Abbas's UN appearance has been blamed on renewed violence on Friday.
After Israeli forces were deployed around Israel and the West Bank in case of unrest linked to his speech in New York, a Palestinian man identified as Issam Badran, 35, was shot and killed, and another Palestinian man was wounded during a clash with Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank.
The Associated Press says the incident began when some 200 settlers burned and uprooted trees near the village of Qusra. Villagers threw stones at the settlers. Israeli troops arrived and fired tear gas, then live rounds. Settlers also fired weapons.
The Palestinians also plan mass demonstrations later in the day.
Palestinians have UN observer status
Earlier this week, General Assembly president Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser and Abbas held talks focusing on the Palestinians’ imminent move to apply for full membership at the UN.
Abbas briefed Al-Nasser on his meeting with Ban, during which he informed the secretary general that he would present him with a letter requesting all 193 UN member states to support the full membership of a Palestinian state in the world body.
The Palestinians currently have observer status at the UN.
According to provisions of the UN charter, the secretary general is tasked with verifying a letter requesting UN membership, after which he sends it to the Security Council and the General Assembly.
The application is considered by the Security Council, which decides whether or not to recommend admission to the assembly. The assembly must then adopt a resolution for the admission of any new member state.
The UN bid by the Palestinians has put them in direct confrontation with the U.S., which has threatened to veto their membership bid in the Security Council, reasoning, like Israel, that statehood can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties to the long and bloody conflict.
The U.S. and Israel have been pressuring council members to either vote against the plan or abstain when it comes up for a vote.
Bid for statehood decades in the making
The resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians seems an elusive goal, with both sides digging in to positions that have tripped up negotiations for years.
Israel insists that negotiations go ahead without any preconditions. But Palestinians say they will not return to the bargaining table without assurances that Israel would halt settlement building and drop its opposition to basing negotiations on the borders it held before capturing the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in 1967.
Israel has warned that the Palestinian appeal to the UN will have a disastrous effect on negotiations, which have been the cornerstone of international Mideast policy for the past two decades.
Netanyahu opposes negotiations based on 1967 lines, saying a return to those frontiers would expose Israel's heartland to rocket fire from the West Bank.
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird met with Riad Malki, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, before the Abbas request was made.
Baird, according to a news release, expressed Canada's deep concern and opposition to the bid and that the only route to peace was through negotiated settlement.