Diana Buttu, Ramallah-based political analyst, former advisor to Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiators. See recent New York Times op-ed by Ms. Buttu, "Why the Palestinian Authority Should Be Shuttered":
“Mahmoud Abbas began his 13th address to the UN General Assembly by recalling that the Oslo Accords - agreements he grandfathered - were signed 24 years ago. These agreements launched the now endless Israeli-Palestinian bilateral negotiations process which has allowed Israel to triple the number of settlement units built illegally on occupied Palestinian land while largely shielding Israel from international criticism.
“Abbas recited the various ‘peace initiatives’ that have been put forward over the years and correctly noted that Israel continues to rebuff demands to end its now 50-year military rule of Palestinian land and its denial of freedom to Palestinians. Yet, while reciting the failure of these initiatives, Abbas offers no alternative to that of negotiations. He continues to cling to the tired and failed formula of bilateral, US-sponsored talks. What Abbas fails to realize is that he has helped make Israel’s occupation a cost-free one.
“Abbas has repeatedly failed to support the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. He has failed to push for Israel’s accountability in the international arena and while making statements about pressing for equal rights, has failed to push a strategy that will see the liberation of Palestinians from Israel’s military grip and racist apartheid regime. In short, he has made it easy for Israel to continue to colonize Palestinian land and subjugate the Palestinian people.
“His meeting with President Trump was no different. Instead of pushing to make Israel’s occupation costly, Abbas will happily go along with whatever silly negotiations process that Trump imposes on him, when we all know that it is certain to fail. Palestinians need a strategy for liberation and a leader who will take us there, not someone who will continue to employ failed tactics that deliver nothing but our continued oppression.”
“Mahmoud Abbas spoke at the UNGA today about the urgency of ending Israel’s 50-year-old military rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories but the message of his address showed anything but urgency. Instead, Abbas offered a rehashing of the same old tired messages; the two-state solution is dying, the Palestinian Authority is building state institutions and will continue to petition international bodies for recognition, Israel continues to reject the international consensus and so on.
“This has all been true for decades and what does Abbas offer in terms of a new approach to underscore the urgency he calls for? Nothing. Instead, today he met with US President Donald Trump, lavished him with praise, and told him he was counting on his leadership to deliver peace. In other words, Abbas offers more of the same. He should not be surprised if Israel and the international community respond with more of the same of what they have been doing.
“Instead of issuing empty threats about dissolving the Palestinian Authority, annulling the Oslo accords and the like, Abbas should stop expecting an international community of states that has failed Palestine to save it and stop playing along with the game Israel and the United States want him to play. The strongest point made in his speech was his support for the issuance of the UNHRC's list of companies illegally profiting from occupation and the call for others to boycott settlement products as the world boycotted Apartheid South Africa. Unfortunately, this point, a call to action that could be in line with global civil society efforts, was marginal in the speech instead of being its main thrust.
“The latest polls released earlier this week shows 67% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza want Mahmoud Abbas to resign. He gave them very little reason to change their minds today.”
Zaha Hassan, Human rights attorney and Middle East Fellow at New America. During Palestine’s bid for UN membership and Quartet-sponsored talks between 2010 and 2012, Ms. Hassan was the coordinator and legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team:
“To be or not to be? That was gist of Abbas’s question to the international community at the UN General Assembly today. Will the UN and member states show their commitment to the two-state solution they profess to favor or will they allow Israel to continue to colonize and annex the larger part of what was meant to form the Palestinian state?
“If a two-state solution is not to be, he said, the one-state reality must be one where Palestinians live as equal citizens with Jews. Those who believe in a just peace could hardly disagree. The problem with Abbas’s speech is not what he said, it’s that he said it before: again and again. And each time he says it, his words become a little less credible. You can’t say that you want to pursue member state status in the UN, or an International Criminal Court case against those Israelis responsible for crimes against humanity in Gaza during the 2014 bombardment, or membership in the World Tourism Organization, or a complaint with FIFA against the participation of Israeli settlement soccer teams, and then suddenly pull the plug on those efforts in order to go back into negotiations that have no hope of success in light of political realities in Israel.
“The question that really needs an answer at this moment is one that must be posed to the Palestinian people: will they demand the renewal and strengthening of their political institutions so that they may agree and move forward on new strategies to resist their erasure from their homeland or will they wait for a savior that will never come? Palestinians must lead now in their struggle for freedom so that the world knows how to follow.”
Noura Erakat, Human rights attorney, Assistant Professor at George Mason University, editorial board member of the Journal of Palestine Studies, and Co-Editor of the e-zine Jadaliyya and the book, Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures (2013):
“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas lucidly outlined the futility of international law and legal opinions in the absence of political will on the part of the international community to take concrete action to enforce them. His speech reminded the international community that for over five decades, it has recognized the existence of a Palestinian people and their right to self-determination and yet has failed to place the requisite pressure on Israel to cease its settler colonial project predicated on the erasure of Palestinians. And Abbas has also recognized that Israel's current government outright rejects a Palestinian state and is willing to offer ghettoized sovereignty at most.
“What is curious then, is the lack of self-reflection by Abbas on the responsibility of the Palestinian leadership in getting to this point and perpetuating it by pursuing a diplomatic strategy aimed at acquiescence rather than resistance. Generating the political will Palestinians need requires mobilization and confrontation rather than one of pleading for justice. No one has ever relinquished their privilege willingly- not racial supremacists or colonial powers- they were forced to do so. The Palestinian leadership must reevaluate its counterproductive strategy that has facilitated and prolonged Israeli domination since it has reduced the political and financial costs of such domination by becoming an extension of it. Peace talks without a disavowal of the US's role and outright resistance to Israel's domination will only increase its viability to the detriment of all peoples.”
Tareq Baconi, Policy Analyst for Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network and author of the forthcoming book, Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance from Stanford University Press:
“’Is Israel above the law?’ President Abbas asked the UNGA today. After offering a laundry list of UN resolutions that Israel has systematically violated for over half a century, Abbas somehow still failed to see that this is a rhetorical question. ‘I don’t understand how recognizing Palestine on the basis of 1967 harms the chances of peace,’ he asked.
"Despite all the glaring signs that neither negotiations nor Palestinian readiness for statehood will lead to the formation of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, Abbas appears committed to much of the same strategy. Shortly before his speech, Abbas thanked President Trump for his commitment to produce a ‘real peace’ through bilateral negotiations. After using his podium to recite how Israel has consistently refused to even accept the notion of Palestinian statehood, Abbas suggested that the ‘two-state is in jeopardy’ and urgently called on the international community to hold Israel accountable.
“Abbas’s speech shows how far the Palestinian leadership lags behind its people in pushing forward a strategic reorientation of the Palestinian struggle towards demanding rights, freedom, and equality. That Abbas used such a shift ‘not as a threat but as a warning’ demonstrates his incapacity to lead the Palestinians in such a redirection. Abbas could have used the proof he presented regarding Israel’s intransigence to build a forceful case for increasing the cost of Israel’s occupation and hold it responsible for Palestinians under its rule. Once again, he failed to effectively take that jump.
“Abbas’s speech, defensive and uninspiring, leaves one hoping that he might have learnt a bit more from the struggle Mandela had led, a leader from whom he appeared ready to quote at length.”