Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday extended an unprecedented invitation to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, urging him to address the Israeli parliament.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu offered in turn to appear before the Palestinian legislature.
The Palestinians quickly rejected the Knesset invitation as a “new gimmick” designed to mask what they described as Israel’s intransigence on moving forward with the Middle East peace process.
Netanyahu addressed the world body moments after Abbas delivered his own speech. They presented sharply different views of the path toward reviving peace talks that have been stalled for more than two years.
“I am ready to negotiate all final status, but one thing I will never negotiate is the right to a one and only Jewish state,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu rejects a settlement freeze, rejects the 1967 borders as the basis for talks and rejects any division of Jerusalem.
He has also said he would not uproot settlements.
Describing Israel’s settlement policy as “abhorrent,” Abbas demanded that the UN take a bigger role in the effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation approaches in June next year, Abbas urged the 193-member General Assembly to declare next year “the international year to end the Israeli occupation of our land and our people.”
He called on the UN Security Council to take up a resolution on the settlements, adding: “We hope no one will cast a veto.”
Netanyahu rejected the idea of greater UN involvement in the peace process.
“We will not accept any attempt by the UN to dictate terms to Israel. The road to peace runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not through New York,” he said.
Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s longstanding complaints that the UN system is biased against Israel, saying that “the UN, begun as a moral force, has become a moral farce.”
He said that Israel’s relations with much of the world were rapidly improving, even in the Arab world, where he said many countries are increasingly seeing Israel as an ally against the Islamic State group and Iran.
Abbas denounced Israel’s reluctance to involve the international community in the Middle East peace process.
He accused Israel of “continuing to evade” an international conference that France wants to hold before the end of the year to work out a framework for negotiating peace.
He said “our hand remains outstretched for making peace,” but Israel refuses to “abandon the mentality of hegemony, expansionism and colonization.”
Palestinians have rebuffed Netanyahu’s past offers for meetings, although Russia this month said that Abbas and Netanyahu have agreed “in principle” to meet in Moscow for talks.
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