Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) arrives at the United Nations headquarters in New York City earlier this week. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Abbas Expected To Call Palestine ‘A State Under Occupation’ In UN Speech

Although analysts have said the phrase has no meaning in international law, some believe that Abbas could use it symbolically to push the two-state solution

During his forthcoming address to the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York this week, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to declare Palestine “a state under occupation.”

However, Palestinian legal expert Hanna Issa told The Media Line that a “state under occupation has no meaning in international law, as this term has never been used.” He explained that no party can declare a state without sovereignty and full practice of authority within its designated borders. “Palestinians lack that; Israel controls almost everything,” Issa asserted.

Nevertheless, Issa believes that “a state under occupation” has symbolic significance in that it will bolster the two-state solution—two states, Israel and Palestinian coexisting side by side—and the idea that there is a Palestinian state in waiting, it just needs to be declared. However, he said, the Israeli occupation had to end first. “That’s what Abbas means to say,” Issa added.

The PA has effectively boycotted any negotiations with the U.S. administration. The latter has already recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital late last year and moved the U.S. Embassy there in May. For their part, Palestinians claim the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state.

On the heels of the PA boycott, Washington decided to cut more than $200 million from Palestinian aid programs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many of which are administered through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Analysts view these cuts as the administration’s way of applying additional pressure on Abbas, forcing him to return to the negotiating table as the U.S. formulates a comprehensive solution to the historic Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The president’s speech will raise the voice of the Palestinian people to the world,” Ziad abu-Ziad, Fatah’s international media spokesperson, told The Media Line.

He explained that Abbas will likely “inform the international community about Israeli settlements in the West Bank being built on the ruins of our lands.” Abbas will also likely emphasize “the threats and pressures being forced on us to surrender our legitimate rights.”

In a press release, Palestinian presidency spokesperson Nabil abu-Rudeina stressed that Abbas’ speech to the UN will be a “crossroads” in highlighting the serious challenges that Palestinians are facing.

“The speech includes a comprehensive, national and strategic vision that will have a profound impact on events here, in the region, and around the world,” abu-Rudeina said in the release. He added that “without Jerusalem and the other holy places” there will be no lasting peace in the region.

“There will be no solution, and the region will remain in a cycle of instability and wars without end.”
Abu-Rudeina confirmed that the PA headed by Abbas would continue to reject “suspicious deals,” and would maintain “adherence to national principles regardless of the pressure and sacrifices that will be made in the process.”

Jordanian King Abdullah II stressed during his speech to the UN assembly earlier this week that the two-state solution was the only way to a comprehensive and lasting peace in the region. He confirmed that the idea of a one-state solution for the Palestinians and Israelis was “a terrible and undemocratic reality.” The Jordanian monarch added that the two-state solution was the only one that meets the needs of both Palestinians and Israelis, and would end the conflict.

Jordanian political analyst Moeen al-Taher contends that based on the current circumstances, “Abbas has nothing really to say besides what he has already said.” Al-Taher explained to The Media Line that Abbas constantly threatens to declare Palestine as a state under occupation, to reconsider the Olso agreements, and to cancel the security coordination with Israel.

“Any pending threats without actual decisions will not change anything, especially when he’s fighting American aims for the region,” al-Taher added.

According to al-Hayya newspaper, an anonymous Palestinian official claimed that in addition to informing the UNGA of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Committee’s intention to declare “the state of Palestine under occupation,” Abbas will ask the 138 countries that have already recognized Palestine as an observer member of the UNGA in 2012 to recognize it as a state along the 1967 borders.

In addition, the official claimed, Abbas would ask those European countries which did not recognize Palestine as a state to do so, and call for an international peace conference to replace the U.S. as the prime mediator in peace talks.

The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict began in the mid-20th century, and despite previous diplomatic attempts, has not seen lasting resolutions addressing the core issues of contention. The U.S. administration claims that its unpublished plan, the so-called “deal-of-the-century,” will end the 70-year-old conflict.

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