“UNITED NATIONS — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday formally presented U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon an application for Palestinian membership as a state in the United Nations, setting the stage for the certain defeat of the measure in the U.N. Security Council, where the United States has threatened to block it.
In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly after submitting the application, Abbas informed the gathered leaders and diplomats of his move and held up a copy of the document, drawing a standing ovation and sustained cheers.
He devoted much of the speech to railing against Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and he blamed Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank for a prolonged deadlock in peace efforts.
“Enough, enough, enough,” he said at one point. “It is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence.”
The move marked the culmination of several months of a high-stakes diplomatic drive to secure Palestinian statehood at the United Nations. It set the Palestinian leadership on a collision course with Israel and the United States, which have insisted that the only path to statehood is through direct negotiations.
In his speech to the body, Abbas repeatedly denounced Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank, which he said was aimed at “entrenching occupation” of Palestinian land.
He charged that every initiative and new round of negotiations has been “shattered on the rock of the Israeli settlement expansion project.” He said his Palestine Liberation Organization is “ready to return immediately to the negotiating table” on condition that Israel cease its settlement activity.
“We extend our hands to the Israeli government and Israeli people for peace-making,” Abbas said.
“At a time when the Arab people affirm their quest for democracy in what is called now the Arab Spring, the time has come also for the Palestinian spring, the time of independence,” he said.
“The time has come for my courageous and proud people, after decades of displacement and colonial occupation and ceaseless suffering, to live like the other peoples of the Earth, free in a sovereign and independent homeland,” Abbas added.
After holding up a copy of the application for statehood, he declared: “Palestine is being reborn. This is my message. May all the people of the world stand with the people of Palestine.””