Israel is guilty of “perpetrating a new war of genocide” according to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, he said Israel had “chosen to defy the entire world” with its military operation in Gaza in which “jet and tanks assassinated lives and dreams”.
Visibly angry, Abbas pulled no punches, with his use of the word “genocide” particularly sensitive in Israel, especially given that the country’s critics now increasingly liken its actions to those of Nazi Germany.
With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu due to take the podium on Monday, diplomats around the world laid into Abbas’ speech, in which he blamed Israel for “destroying any remaining hopes for peace”.
Some Israeli left-wing political parties applauded, with Meretz saying it “supports Abbas’s international efforts to bring the end of the occupation and to get international recognition as a state and member of the UN”.
The speech reflected Abbas’s total distrust of Netanyahu as a partner for peace, party leader Zaheva Gal-On said. “[Netanyahu] refused to negotiate for five years, the talks led nowhere and wild construction continued in the settlements. Now he just wants to ‘manage the conflict’ instead of solving it,” she said.
But Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the speech once again showed how “this is not a leader who wants peace and progress for his people; rather, he is a person who spreads lies and is busy inciting and making hateful speeches against Israel”.
Over the weekend, Netanyahu referred to the Palestinian leader’s speech as “inciteful” while calling Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s words “deceptive”.
Rouhani, who marked his first days as president last year by wishing Jews a Happy New Year, sought to find common ground with other states in the Middle East, which he said was “weary of war”, before calling for increased cooperation.
“Had we had greater cooperation and coordination in the Middle East, thousands of innocent Palestinians in Gaza would not have been fallen victim to Zionist regime’s aggression,” he said, adding that Iran was “prepared to play our part”.
Before leaving, a defiant Netanyahu said: “I will represent Israel’s citizens, and repel, in their name, the lies and slander thrown at our country.”