Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday asked the UN General Assembly to end the world’s “last occupation” and recognize a Palestinian state.
“It is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence,” he said in a speech that grew in emotion as it went on.
“This is the moment of truth ... we are the last people in the world to be occupied. Will the world allows this to continue by the state of Israel?”
“After 63 years of suffering …enough…enough…enough,” he told the General Assembly to a standing ovation. “Palestine is being reborn…people of the world stand with us.”
"We have one goal: to be. And we shall be," he said. “We hope we will not have to wait long.”
Abbas filed his historic request for full membership of the UN earlier in the day, handing his application to UN chief Ban Ki-moon. Ban will now pass the bid on to the Security Council, which has yet to fix a date for its consideration of the bid. Ban is expected, however, to ask it to do so as soon as possible.
Crowds gathered in the West Bank cheered the news that Abbas had filed the bid. A Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops during clashes in the village of Qusra, south of Nablus.
Israeli protesters burnt U.S. flags and portraits of U.S. President Barack Obama, who said on Thursday the Palestinians “deserve a state.”
But Obama also said that negotiations with Israel were the only way to achieve this, and that the U.S. would veto any request for the Security Council to grant it full membership.
Abbas said that he would press ahead with the bid in the General Assembly if knocked back by the Security Council. But approval in the General Assembly alone would not give the Palestinians full membership status.
It would however give the Palestinians the power to take Israel to the International Criminal Court.
Palestinian is seeking recognition according to its 1967 borders - in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
"We extend our hands to the Israeli government and the Israeli people for peacemaking," Abbas said at the start of his speech.
But he also expressed disappointment that negotiations with the Israelis had led nowhere.
"We entered those negotiations with open hearts and attentive ears," Abbas said. "But these negotiations broke down just weeks after they were launched."
Abbas also stressed the dangers of continued Israeli settlement construction in land earmarked by the Palestinians for their future state.
He said the settlements threatened to “undermine the structure of the Palestinian National Authority and even end its existence.”
Soon after Abbas’ speech, the Quartet of Middle East negotiators (the U.S., Russia, the UN and the EU) gathered for talks with the participation of the UN secretary general.
Analysts have suggested that the Quartet could attempt to entice Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table before the Security Council vote.