From the Israel Project’s Daily Tip, Sept. 26, 2014
The State Department on Friday harshly condemned a speech given earlier that day by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, during which Abbas told the United Nations General Assembly that Israel’s summer Operation Protective Edge against Hamas constituted a “genocidal crime,” that the Israelis had committed a “series of absolute war crimes,” that those who expressed “support for Israel’s right to self-defense” were wrong to do so, and that Israel had “specifically targeted the City of Jerusalem…attempting to artificially alter the spirit, identity and character of the Holy City, focusing on Al-Aqsa Mosque.” The final allegation was a gesture toward Abbas’s repeatedly leveled accusation that Israeli Jews are attempting to “Judaize” Jerusalem, a charge that Israeli leaders have harshly criticized as a particularly virulent and dangerous form of incitement. Other portions of Abbas’s speech included lines lashing out over “the third war waged by the racist occupying State in five years against Gaza” and insisting that “the colonial occupying Power [Israel] was preparing a new Nakba [disaster] against the Palestinian people.” Substantively the speech appeared to commit the PA to giving up negotiations and instead pursuing a strategy of international legal warfare against the Jewish state. Abbas seemed emphatic on the point: “it is impossible, and I repeat – it is impossible – to return to the cycle of negotiations.” The full version of the speech as written was posted to the U.N.’s webpage, and New York Times United Nations journalist Somini Sengupta reported that Abbas received “sustained applause from the General Assembly hall.” Johnathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), noted that “the PLO has been heading in this direction for several years now – using the international system as its chief negotiation leverage” and suggested that attention would now shift to whether the Obama administration would “help the PLO pursue its goals through the international system.” A statement sent to reporters by State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki Friday night blasted Abbas’s speech for having “included offensive characterizations that were deeply disappointing and which we reject,” and described his remarks as ones that “[were] counterproductive and undermine[d] efforts to create a positive atmosphere and restore trust between the two parties.” Veteran Associated Press (AP) diplomatic correspondent Matt Lee posted the statement to Twitter after specifically emphasizing both the former and latter aspects of State’s position. The subsequent AP story conveying Psaki’s statement specifically emphasized Abbas’s war crimes accusation.