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The Palestinian Ultimatum

By issuing an ultimatum before the UN General Assembly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hoped to shake the US from its complacency and force Israel to engage in real negotiations to end its occupation of Palestinian lands. With Palestinians losing patience, the alternative is an upsurge in violence.

AMMAN – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was only ten years old when the United Nations was established. Last month, he addressed its 76th General Assembly and issued a bold ultimatum: Israel has one year to withdraw from the Palestinian territory it occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, or the Palestinians would no longer recognize Israel based on the 1967 borders, and they would take the occupation before the International Court of Justice.

Abbas, like more than half of Palestinians, is a refugee. He still possesses his family’s land deed from what is now the Israeli city of Safed – a deed that, he pointed out, is registered as part of the UN’s records. This state of affairs is not, he made clear, the Palestinians’ fault: “To those who claim there is no Palestinian partner for peace and that we do not ‘miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,’ I challenge them to demonstrate that we have rejected even once a genuine and serious initiative to achieve peace.”

To be sure, in September 1967, in the wake of the June war, Arab leaders committed to the so-called Three Nos: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.” But the opposite is true today. As Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh recently noted, it is now Israel that refuses to talk with Abbas, engage in any good-faith negotiations, or recognize the state of Palestine.