Home inContext World Leaders Gather, Speak at the UN

World Leaders Gather, Speak at the UN

Samara Greenberg

World leaders convened in New York this week to attend the United Nations General Assembly’s annual gathering.

Speaking on Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he continues to seek full UN membership for a state of Palestine — a bid that he began this time last year but failed in due to a lack of support at the UN Security Council. While he continues to seek that status, Abbas also said he has begun negotiations aimed at adopting a resolution that would make Palestine “a non-member state of the United Nations during this session” — one step above its current status and below full membership.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu uses a chart as he speaks about the Iranian nuclear program at the United Nations General Assembly, September 27, 2012. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Abbas, unsurprisingly, also used the podium to accuse Israel of “a campaign of ethnic cleansing” in east Jerusalem, rejecting the two-state solution, delegitimizing Palestinians, and undermining the Palestinian Authority “which could lead to its collapse.” Abbas further stated that the Israeli settlement policy is based on a “racist climate fueled by a culture of incitement”. The Palestinians are expected to submit their bid for non-member state status at the UN on November 29.

Speaking after Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu focused on Iran, telling the UN that Tehran could have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon by next summer unless the international community draws a “clear red line” and acts to prevent it. President Obama, who spoke at the UN on Tuesday, has thus far refused to set a red line on Iran’s nuclear program. Netanyahu also answered Abbas’s criticism of Israel, stating that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be solved “with libelous speeches at the U.N.” but through negotiations “in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the one and only Jewish state.”

The previous day, on Yom Kippur, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the General Assembly. While the media portrayed his speech as “tame by comparison to previous appearances” for his refrain in calling for Israel’s destruction, Ahmadinejad took the opportunity to blast the West. The Iranian president called for a new world order away from “the self-proclaimed centers of power who have entrusted themselves to the devil”, as well as complained of a “Continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action”. Speaking to reporters a day before his speech, the Iranian president said that Israel has “no roots” in the Middle East and represents “minimal disturbances that come into the picture and are then eliminated.”

Indeed, highlighting this year’s annual gathering at the UN are heightened tensions in the Middle East. And though Abbas tried once again to draw some attention to the Palestinian issue with his anti-Israel rhetoric, between Iran’s nuclear program and the Syrian uprising, there is no doubt where the international focus will remain.