Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that the Palestinians were no longer bound by the 1993 interim Oslo peace accords with Israel.
Israel was continuously violating the transition peace deal and could no longer expect the Palestinians to be the only ones to abide by it, he said in New York.
The Oslo accords created the Palestinian Authority (PA) and gave Palestinians partial autonomous rule over the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Negotiations on a final peace deal would eventually lead to an independent state. But these negotiations collapsed in April 2014.
Stopping short of announcing that he would dismantle the PA, Abbas hinted that the Palestine Liberation Organization would take up a bigger role instead, reiterating that decisions of its institutions were binding for the Palestinians.
The address to the United Nations General Assembly was a sign of the deep frustration felt by the Palestinians over the lack of progress toward any final peace deal and over continued Israeli settlement expansion in the mean time.
“We declare that as long as Israel refuses to commit to the agreements signed with us … (they) leave us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements, while Israel continuously violates them,” Abbas said.
“We therefore declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these signed agreements with Israel and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power, because the status quo cannot continue.”
It remained unclear whether the speech would lead to any real changes on the ground.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu countered that it was Abbas who refused to hold direct negotiations with him.
Abbas’ speech to the General Assembly “is false and encourages incitement and unrest in the Middle East,” Netanyahu’s office charged.
“We expect and call on the (Palestinian) Authority and the one who heads it to act responsibly and to accept the Israeli Prime Minister’s proposal for direct negotiations without preconditions.”
Abbas conditions a return to peace talks on a settlement freeze.
Netanyahu also rejected accusations that Israel was planning to change the status quo on a highly sensitive Jerusalem holy site, sacred to both Jews and Muslims.
Such false rumours, Netanyahu said, encouraged Muslim youths to hurl rocks and firecrackers on the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, to which police have responded with stun grenades and arrests.
Abbas warned that Israel’s “brutal force” on the site would “convert the conflict from a political to a religious one” and create an explosive situation in Jerusalem and all over occupied Palestinian territory.
“The status quo is completely unacceptable,” he said.
A senior PLO official, explaining the speech, said that “what the president said is that the Palestinian Authority was created to lead, in a clear time frame, our people from occupation to independence.
“There is no way that we could continue to abide by our obligations if Israel continues to violate all of its obligations,” he told dpa.
“The president was clear that we have taken decisions … to redefine our relation with the occupying power,” he said, but added: “I don’t think that things will be done in 24 hours.”
Asked if a redefinition of relations could mean an end to Israeli-Palestinian security coordination, he said, “it’s one of the options.”
Observers said the speech was also an attempt to draw attention back to the Palestinian problem, at a time when the world is absorbed by a number of other pressing issues including the refugee crisis, the Syrian civil war, the terrorist militia Islamic State and the Iranian nuclear deal among others.