Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Friday asked the United Nations to recognize a state of Palestine, despite U.S. and Israeli opposition against the bid.
Addressing the U.N. General Assembly after receiving a standing ovation, the president of the Palestinian Authority called Israel “the occupying power” and said its control of Palestinian enclaves is a policy of “colonial settlement occupation.”
Mr. Abbas said that due to the expansion of Israeli housing in the Palestinians territories the peace process has broken down, leaving the Palestinians no alternative but to seek statehood unilaterally. He added that as Arabs in the region pursue democracy with the protest movement known as the Arab Spring, “the time is now for a Palestinian Spring.”
Israel has opposed the Palestinian statehood move, saying it does not advance Mideast peace. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to address the assembly shortly with the Israeli response to Mr. Abbas.
Trying to forestall the bid, the Obama administration has been pushing Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks, which stopped a year ago.
Mr. Abbas rebuffed all appeals to drop the bid. He told the General Assembly on Friday that he is offering peace overtures to the Israelis, and is ready to resume negotiations under conditions that Israeli settlement activity stop.
An aide to Mr. Abbas said Thursday the Palestinian president believes the bid for U.N. membership will not prevent serious peace negotiations with Israel.
In Ramallah, Palestinians waved flags and cheered as Mr. Abbas spoke.
Clashes had erupted in the West Bank ahead of Mr. Abbas’ appearance.
Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man near Nablus in the West Bank on Friday after a confrontation erupted between Palestinians and Jewish settlers. Meanwhile, Palestinian protesters hurled rocks at Israeli forces in East Jerusalem and near Ramallah.
Israel says it had deployed 22,000 security officers across the country in advance of the speech to respond to possible unrest.
The U.N. Security Council could take weeks to consider the application, which would allow more time for diplomacy before the Palestinians consider their next move – approaching the U.N. General Assembly to upgrade their status to a non-voting observer state.