Palestine slams 'hateful' UN speech by Israel's Netanyahu

Palestine slams 'hateful' UN speech by Israel's Netanyahu
4 min read
23 September, 2023
During a speech that saw him say Israel was on the 'cusp' of normalising ties with Saudi Arabia, Benjamin Netanyahu displayed two maps that showed the occupied Palestinian territory as being part of Israel.
Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Friday [Michael M. Santiago/Getty]

Palestine slammed as "hateful" a speech Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave on Friday at the United Nations.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, Netanyahu said Israel was on the "cusp" of normalising ties with Saudi Arabia and that Palestinians shouldn't get to "veto" the move.

He also displayed two maps that showed the occupied Palestinian territory – the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip – as being part of Israel.

"The State of Palestine rejects in the strongest terms the provocative and hateful speech delivered by [the] Israeli prime minister," the Palestinian foreign ministry said on X, formerly Twitter.

"From the podium of the United Nations, Israel's prime minister confirmed, yet again, the colonial designs of his government and the objectives of Israel's illegal occupation: the forcible and violent annexation of the Palestinian homeland and negation of the presence and rights of the Palestinian people, including their rights to self-determination and return.

"The international community must firmly reject and condemn Israel's racist denigration of the Palestinian people and its vehement denial of their roots in the land – an indigenous, centuries-old presence borne out by history."

One of the maps used by Netanyahu claimed to show Israel in 1948, the year it was created alongside a bloody campaign of ethnic cleansing that saw over 700,000 Palestinians expelled from their homes.

"Here's Israel in 1948. It's a tiny country, isolated, surrounded by a hostile Arab world," he said.

"In our first 70 years, we made peace with Egypt and Jordan, and then in 2020 we made the Abraham Accords – peace with another four Arab states.

"Now look at what happens when we make peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel."

Netanyahu then turned the first map around to display a new one, saying: "The whole Middle East changes. We tear down the walls of enmity."

The second map was titled "The New Middle East". The occupied Palestinian territory was again shown as part of Israel but this time Arab states that have normalised ties with the Israelis, including Egypt and the UAE, were coloured in green.

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So too was Saudi Arabia, which is currently engaged in talks on normalising relations.

Israel's 1979 treaty with Egypt and 1994 deal with Jordan are widely viewed as peace agreements.

But neither Saudi Arabia nor any of the Arab states that agreed to normalise ties in 2020 have participated in wars with Israel for decades.

While Sudan agreed in 2020 to normalise with Israel, little progress has since been made on furthering ties between the two countries.

Palestinians view normalisation as a betrayal of their national cause.

The Institute for Middle East Understanding said the map of Netanyahu's "so-called 'New Middle East'" was one where "Israel has stolen every inch of Palestinian land".

"He couldn't have been clearer: the future Israel is working towards is one where Palestine has been entirely wiped off the map," the non-profit posted on X.

Netanyahu said an "historic peace" with Saudi Arabia "will go a long way to ending the Arab-Israeli conflict" and will encourage other Arab countries to regularise ties with Israel.

He firmly rejected the insistence of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, in his own UN speech on Thursday, that there could be no peace in the Middle East without a Palestinian state.

"We must not give the Palestinians a veto over new peace treaties with Arab states," Netanyahu said.

"The Palestinians could greatly benefit from a broader peace. They should be part of that process. But they should not have a veto over the process."

Agencies contributed to this report.