Israeli leaders denounce U.N. speeches by Abbas, Rouhani

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas addresses the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly on Friday in New York.
(Don Emmert / AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli leaders emerged from a long weekend of the Jewish New Year and Sabbath to denounce speeches delivered at the United Nations General Assembly last week by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

In a statement Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Rouhani’s remarks “deceptive” and accused Abbas of inflammatory speech. Netanyahu said that when he addresses the United Nations on Monday, he would “refute the slander and lies directed at our country.”

In a fiery speech Friday, Abbas accused Israel of “abhorrent apartheid” policies, and “genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people” in Gaza, where he said it had carried out “a series of absolute war crimes.”

The Palestinian leader accused Israel’s government of undermining the recent round of U.S.-led peace talks that collapsed in April, and said he would pursue a U.N. resolution for a deadline for Israel’s withdrawal from Palestinian territories.

Abbas’ address proves “for the umpteenth time” that he doesn’t want peace but propagates lies and is “engaged in incitement,” Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon wrote Saturday in a Facebook post. Israel has no partner for an agreement that will end the conflict and “will not compromise on the security” of its citizens, the minister said.


The speech prompted strong words from the U.S. administration as well, which described it as provocative and counterproductive. Expressing disappointment with “offensive characterizations,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Abbas’ comments “undermine efforts to create a positive atmosphere and restore trust between the parties.”

While some members of Israel’s political opposition were outraged by Abbas’ speech, others said it reflected Netanyahu’s failure in the peace process. Lawmaker Zehava Galon accused Netanyahu of carrying out “wild construction in the settlements” while engaging in “negotiations to nowhere,” with no intention of ending the conflict.

Rouhani’s speech denounced the fundamentalist extremism of Al Qaeda and Islamic State, blaming “strategic blunders” by Western powers. He also said the West’s sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program violate international law.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday and with President Obama in Washington on Wednesday. In addition to countering Abbas’ charges, his speech to the U.N. is expected to focus on Iran’s controversial nuclear program, which remains a key concern for Israel.

Sobelman is a special correspondent.