A senior Palestinian official criticized U.S. President Barack Obama Monday for not mentioning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, which touched on the threat of terrorism, touted diplomacy and highlighted the war in Syria in its call for a better world. But to achieve lasting stability in the Middle East, Obama cannot turn a blind eye to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Saeb Erekat, the secretary of the executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, said.
"Does President Obama believe he can defeat the ISIS and terrorism, or achieve security and stability in the Middle East, by ignoring the continued Israeli occupation, settlement expansion and the continued attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque?" Erekat was quoted as saying, the Jerusalem Post reported. Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories -- the West Bank and the Gaza strip -- have long been criticized by human rights groups, and its construction of settlements in the West Bank is illegal under international law. Al Aqsa Mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam, located in Jerusalem. In recent months, Israeli soldiers and security forces have frequently entered the compound and attacked worshippers.
The president of the Palestinian authority, Mahmoud Abbas, was scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday, in a speech he has said would "drop a bombshell," he told Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a newspaper based in London. He refused to provide more detail, although speculations ranged from an announcement that he would cancel the 1993 Oslo Accords with Israel to his resignation from the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank.
"I believe in my core that repression cannot forge the social cohesion for nations to succeed," Obama said Monday during his speech before the General Assembly. "I believe that in today’s world, the measure of strength is no longer defined by the control of territory," he added. In his address, he pointed to U.S. actions in Libya, Iraq and Syria, and a historic nuclear agreement with Iran but mentioned neither Palestine nor Israel.
The most recent efforts at Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations collapsed in April 2014 and were followed by a deadly war between Israel and the Gaza strip in which more than 2,100 Gazans (the majority of them civilians), 67 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians died.