Israeli-Palestinian Divide Deepens, With No Sign of Compromise at U.N.

The Israeli and Palestinian leaders gave diametrically different appraisals of their protracted conflict on Thursday, with speeches at the United Nations General Assembly that suggested the dispute is more intractable than ever.

There were no hints of compromise in speeches by the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Abbas, who spoke first, described as racist a new Israeli law on self-determination. Mr. Netanyahu upbraided him as a hypocrite. What Mr. Abbas vilified as a brutal occupier, Mr. Netanyahu exalted as a vibrant democracy.

While Mr. Abbas pilloried the Trump administration for actions that he said had stripped Palestinians of their rights, Mr. Netanyahu thanked President Trump and Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, for their support.

The competing portrayals partly reflected new complexities in the dispute in the 20 months since Mr. Trump took office. While he has promised a broad peace proposal, Mr. Trump has taken actions that have been welcomed by Israel and denounced by Palestinians.

Mr. Trump moved the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, gratifying Israelis who view the disputed holy city as their eternal capital but enraging Palestinians who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state. He has pulled back financial aid to Palestinians, including millions of dollars to the United Nations agency responsible for helping those classified as refugees. He has not objected to Israeli settlement construction.

And he has suggested that he is not bound by the two-state model that has been an integral part of international diplomacy to resolve the conflict for many years — although on Wednesday Mr. Trump signaled that he liked that solution.

“Jerusalem is not for sale and the Palestinian people’s rights are not up for bargaining,” Mr. Abbas said in the opening of his speech.

Mr. Abbas spoke of having met with Mr. Trump numerous times. He said he had patiently awaited the American president’s peace plan, but was “shocked by decisions and actions he undertook that completely contradict the role and commitment of the United States towards the peace process.”

With those decisions, he said, “this administration has reneged on all previous U.S. commitments, and has undermined the two-state solution, and has revealed its false claims of concern about the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people.”

Speaking about the new Israeli law that makes the right of national self-determination “unique to the Jewish people,” Mr. Abbas said it reminded him of laws in “the apartheid state that existed in South Africa.”

Mr. Netanyahu angrily rejected the analogy when it was his turn to speak. He also denounced critics who assert Israel cannot be Jewish and democratic. “This is false,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Israel is both, Israel will always remain both.”

The Israeli prime minister also assailed Mr. Abbas for policies he said encourage attacks on Jews.

“President Abbas, you proudly pay Palestinian terrorists who murder Jews,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “In fact, the more they slay, the more you pay. And you condemn Israel’s morality, you call Israel racist? This is not the way to peace.”

Their speeches came a day after Mr. Trump, following a meeting with Mr. Netanyahu on the sidelines of the General Assembly, told reporters that he would release his peace plan within four months and that he preferred a two-state solution. “That’s what I think works best,” he said. “That’s my feeling.”

The statement differed from what Mr. Trump had said previously — that he would support a two-state solution if both sides agreed to it, but that he also did not rule out a different path.

Mr. Netanyahu has for years avoided referring to a two-state solution in public, partly to avoid antagonizing political allies in Israel who reject that idea.

Palestinian diplomats, who have expressed fury at the Trump administration over what they view as its unbridled support for the Israeli side, have been moving in recent days at the General Assembly to enlist support from other countries for advancing their cause.

The Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, met with representatives of 40 countries Wednesday evening at his New York hotel, and told reporters afterward he was gratified to “have a dialogue over how to salvage the two-state solution.”

The meeting did not include any United States representatives.

Mr. Maliki also said Mr. Trump’s preference for a two-state solution was insufficient and that the Palestinian side had no intention of engaging diplomatically with the United States for now.

“As long as he is sticking to his decisions about Jerusalem, about settlements and about moving the embassy, there is no way,” Mr. Maliki was quoted by Reuters as saying.


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