Weary of repeating his people’s longstanding grievances with Israel, the Palestinian leader used his United Nations General Assembly speech on Friday to request an international conference in early 2021 “with the participation of all concerned parties.”
The request by the leader, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, appeared to reflect an acknowledgment that the ground had shifted significantly in Israel’s favor over the past year, threatening to marginalize the Palestinians in a struggle that is nearly as old at the United Nations itself.
“I wondered while preparing this statement what more I could tell you, after all that I have said in previous statements, about the perpetual tragedy and suffering being endured by my people,” Mr. Abbas said. The prerecorded speech was sent from his office in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to the annual gathering, held virtually this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Abbas spoke against the backdrop of changes that could redefine the power dynamics in the Middle East, notably recent agreements to establish diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The two Gulf states are the first Arab governments to recognize Israel in more than 25 years.
Those agreements were brokered by the Trump administration, which has heavily favored Israel in its Middle East policies while seeking to portray itself as a groundbreaking peacemaker in one of the world’s most volatile regions.
Mr. Abbas and his associates have denounced those agreements, accusing the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain of betraying Arab solidarity and undermining the Palestinian aspirations for statehood. Mr. Abbas has also ridiculed the Trump administration’s peace proposal, which would give chunks of the occupied West Bank to Israel and leave the Palestinians noncontiguous territory and the possibility of a state with limited sovereignty.
Mr. Abbas reiterated his criticisms in the General Assembly speech, asserting that “the only path” toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement requires Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands, an independent Palestine along Israel’s pre-1967 borders, and East Jerusalem as its capital.
With that goal in mind, Mr. Abbas said, he was asking Secretary General António Guterres to make preparations “to convene an international conference with full authority and with the participation of all concerned parties, early next year, to engage in a genuine peace process, based on international law.”
It was not immediately clear whether such a conference would, in fact, be undertaken. Among the many variables is the uncertainty over whether President Trump will be re-elected in November. His Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., is also a strong supporter of Israel but has long backed a two-state solution to the conflict and has criticized Israel’s settlements in occupied territory.