The president of the Palestinian Authority handed United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon an application that asks the world body to recognize Palestine as a member state. The dramatic move caps months of diplomatic wrangling in which the United States and Israel tried to dissuade Mahmoud Abbas from reaching this point.
Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson made it official on Twitter, saying:
President Abbas just handed the Palestinian application to the Secretary-General.
The AP reports:
In the West Bank, the core of that hoped-for state, a Palestinian man was shot dead in a clash with Israeli soldiers and settlers as antagonisms flared over the statehood bid.
Earlier in the week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rebuffed an intense, U.S.-led effort to sway him from the statehood bid, saying he would submit the application to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon as planned.
"We're going without any hesitation and continuing despite all the pressures," Abbas told members of the Palestinian diaspora at a hotel in New York on Thursday night. "We seek to achieve our right and we want our independent state."
Shortly after Abbas submitted the application, he spoke in front of the United Nations' General Assembly. It was a fiery speech in which Abbas called Israeli settlement expansion "ethnic cleansing."
The peace process, Abbas said, has always been broken "on the rock of the Israeli settlement expansion program." Abbas also said Israel's continuing settlement expansion threatened the collapse of his government.
But the parts of the speech that earned Abbas long applauses at the U.N. were about the future of the Palestinian people. Abbas said that like the Arab countries that have demanded freedom and self-determination during the Arab Spring, it is time for for a "Palestinian Spring."
Abbas said he came to the U.N. on behalf of the Palestinian people to say that "after 63 years of suffering ... enough, enough, enough..."
"It's time for the Palestinian people to gain freedom," he said. "It's time for Palestinian children to sleep without" worry. "The time has come for my courageous and proud people ... to live like other people of the world ... to live in a sovereign and independent homeland," he said.
Toward the end of his speech, during a round of thunderous applause, Abbas held up a stack of papers and said, "This is a copy of the application."
In his own speech to the General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the United Nations for continually condemning Israel, "the only true democracy in the Middle East."
Netanyahu also challenged Abbas' speech.
"The core of our conflict is not the settlements," he said. "The settlements are the result of the conflict." The core of the conflict is the "refusal of Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any border," he said.
Netanyahu also talked about peace. He said Israel wants peace and invited Abbas to negotiate right there in New York.
"We have to stop negotiating about the negotiation," said Netanyahu. "Let's just get on with it. Let's negotiate peace."
The Palestinian application now goes to the U.N. Security Council, where the United States, a permanent member, has vowed to block it. (Update at 3:56 p.m. ET. The AP reports that the U.N. Security Council president says it will meet Monday to discuss the Palestinian application. A decision, however, is not expected for weeks or even months.)
We live blogged both speeches as they happened. You can read that below.
Update at 2:06 p.m. ET. 'Let's Meet Here Today':
"We have to stop negotiating about the negotiation," says Netanyahu. "Let's just get on with it. Let's negotiate peace."
Netanyahu offered to come to Ramallah to negotiate with Abbas.
Better yet, he says, "we are in the same city. We are in the same room. Let's meet here today." Netanyahu says he extends his hand to Abbas and asks that negotiations start in New York.
Netanyahu says he cannot achieve peace without Abbas.
"We are both the son of Abraham. Our destinies are intertwined," he said, as he ended his address.
Update at 2 p.m. ET. 'Recognize The Jewish State And Make Peace With Us':
Netanyahu challenged Abbas' speech from earlier. Netanyahu said Abbas said the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was about settlements.
"The core of the conflict are not the settlements," he said. "The settlements are the result of the conflict."
The core of the conflict is the "refusal of Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any border," he said.
Update at 1:50 p.m. ET. Security Is Main Issue:
Netanyahu says Israel's security is paramount. He said Israel "is prepared to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank," but Israel's size makes it impossible for Israel to leave the West Bank entirely.
"To defend itself, military presence in the West Bank" is essential, he said. He said these holes in Israel's security have to be "sealed" before declaring a Palestinian state.
After those issues are solved, he said, "Israel will not be the last nation to welcome a new Palestinian state," he said. "Israel will be the first."
Update at 1:45 p.m. ET. Israel Has Made Sweeping Offers:
Netanyahu says Israel has made sweeping offers in the past. He said in Gaza they "dismantled settlements" and "bulldozed synagogues."
"We left Gaza hoping for peace," he said. "We didn't get peace; we got war. We got Iran... The Palestinian Authority collapsed in one day."
Update at 1:41 p.m. ET. Militant Islam:
Netanyahu said the greatest danger, now, is militant Islam.
"The greatest danger is that this fanaticism will arm itself with nuclear weapons," he said. "That's what Iran wants to do."
Update at 1:34 p.m. ET. Israel Wants Peace:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened his speech by saying that Israel's "hope for peace never wanes." He said Israel wants a "lasting peace" with Palestine.
But Netanyahu very quickly moved on to criticize the United Nations calling it a "theatre of the absurd."
Netanyahu said that year after year, the U.N. has condemned Israel, "the only true democracy in the Middle East."
Netanyahu says that he is not at the U.N. for applause. "I am here to tell the truth," he said. "And the truth is Israel wants peace."
Update 12:44 p.m. ET. Submitted The Application:
Abbas informs the General Assembly that he has submitted an application to Ban Ki-moon that requests the U.N. recognize Palestine as a member state.
Abbas gets a rousing applause. He holds up some papers and says, "This is a copy of the application."
Abbas now asks Ban to "expedite" the transmittal of the application to the Security Council and urges the Security Council to approve the application.
Update at 12:44 p.m. ET. Time For Palestinian Spring Has Come:
Abbas says he has come on behalf of the Palestinian people to say that "after 63 years of suffering... enough, enough, enough..."
"It's time for the Palestinian people to gain freedom... It's time for Palestinian children to sleep without" worry.
Like the countries who have participated in the Arab Spring, it is time for the "Palestinian Spring."
"The time has come for my courageous and proud people... to live like other people of the world... to live in a sovereign and independent homeland," he said.
Update at 12:42 p.m. ET. A State Above The Law:
Abbas says the time has come for the U.N. to decide whether it will allow Palestine to be occupied forever. It's time, he said, to decide whether Israel will be allowed to be "a state above the law."
Update at 12:38 p.m. ET. Rule Of Law:
Abbas refers to the agreement reached by Hamas and Fatah saying they came to an agreement because of their people. He said Palestinians are committed to a state that runs by the "rule of law." And rejects violence by terrorists, state-sponsored terrorism and violence by settlers.
Update at 12:34 p.m. ET. Build A Future:
Abbas says he extends his hand to Israel. He said he wants Israel and Palestine to build bridges and not borders and check points.
Update at 12:29 p.m. ET. More On Settlements:
Abbas says the the peace process has always been broken "on the rock of the Israeli settlement expansion program."
Update at 12:26 p.m. ET. Quoting Yasser Arafat:
Abbas quotes former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He said at the U.N. Arafat called for peace. He said, "Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."
Abbas says they believe in peace. He said Arafat took a historic step of accepting a Palestinian state on only a portion of "historic Palestine."
Update at 12:22 p.m. ET. 'Settlement Occupation' Responsible For Stall In Peace Process:
Abbas says Israel's settlement policy is responsible for the stalling of the peace process. He said that armed settler militias have killed Palestinians and Israeli forces, just today, killed a Palestinian "peaceful protester."
He said if Israel fails to curb the violence and settlement expansion, the peace process will not go forward.
Abbas also said Israel's continuing settlement expansion threatens the collapse of his government.
Update at 12:16 p.m. ET. Negotiated Sincerely:
Abbas says over the past year, Palestinians have negotiated with "open hearts," he said. But it has not worked, he said. He says Israelis have refused to enter into negotiations under the terms of international law.
He says the issue of settlements is key. He says that Israel continues to expand settlements into Palestinian territory at an "accelerated level." Just a note: We are listening to the official translation of Abbas' address.
He calls Israel's expansion of settlements "ethnic cleansing."
Update at 12:12 p.m. ET. Greater Participation For U.N.:
The question of Palestine is entwined with U.N., Abbas said. We aspire for and seek a greater role for the U.N. to work for peace in our region, he said.
Update at 12:11 p.m. ET. Abbas Introduced:
Abbas has just been introduced and has been received by a loud applause.