Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

Palestinian Authority President Takes U.N. Stage To Address Independent State Goals

Sep 27, 2018
Originally published on September 27, 2018 5:34 pm
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

For months, the Trump administration has repeatedly backed Israel in its ongoing conflict with Palestinians. And the White House has been pressuring the Palestinians to get behind a peace plan that the administration says it is unveiling. Today Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had a chance to respond on the floor of the U.N. General Assembly. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The Trump administration has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, including its contribution to the U.N. agency that provides schools and hospitals for Palestinian refugees. It also recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, though Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as their future capital. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took aim at both of those moves as he began a fiery speech at the U.N. General Assembly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS: (Through interpreter) Jerusalem is not for sale.

(APPLAUSE)

ABBAS: (Through interpreter) And the Palestinian people's rights are not up for bargaining.

KELEMEN: Speaking through an interpreter, Abbas told world leaders that he's been shocked by the Trump administration's moves, which he says are undermining the prospects for a two-state solution, the policy of previous U.S. administrations.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ABBAS: (Through interpreter) It's really ironic that the American administration still talks about what they call the deal of the century. But what is left for this administration to give to the Palestinian people?

KELEMEN: A spokesman for the U.S. mission says the Trump administration's negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, was in the General Assembly hall as Abbas was railing against U.S. policy and describing Israel as an apartheid state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shot back when he was at the podium today, referring to payments made to families of Palestinian attackers who were killed or jailed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: You proudly pay Palestinian terrorists who murder Jews. In fact, the more they slay, the more you pay. That's in their law, too. And you condemn Israel's morality. You call Israel racist.

KELEMEN: That's not the way to peace, Netanyahu said. He also praised the Trump administration for standing up for Israel at the United Nations, pulling out of what he called the morally bankrupt Human Rights Council and cutting money to UNRWA, which aids Palestinian refugees.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NETANYAHU: An organization that instead of solving the Palestinian refugee problem perpetuates it.

KELEMEN: UNRWA has been scrambling to find new donations to keep their schools and hospitals open for Palestinian refugees. Jordan's foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, came out of a meeting here today saying other countries have pledged $118 million to help make up for the U.S. cuts.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AYMAN SAFADI: We're sending a message that the world does still care about the plight of Palestinian refugees, that the Palestinian refugees is a final-status issue that must be resolved in accordance with international law.

KELEMEN: And through negotiations. The foreign minister says he's still waiting to see the U.S. peace plan. So, too, is Abbas, who spoke through an interpreter.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ABBAS: (Through interpreter) We only believe in peace. Peace is the only path. We don't believe in terrorism and violence.

KELEMEN: To bolster his negotiating position, the Palestinian Authority president is continuing to push for countries and international organizations to recognize a state of Palestine. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the United Nations.

(SOUNDBITE OF MENAHAN STREET BAND'S "GOING THE DISTANCE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.