Palestinian president vows to hold elections after returning from UN summit
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would announce a date for general elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, during a speech he gave at the annual UN General Assembly in New York City.
General elections have not been held in the Palestinian territories since 2006, and while Abbas's term lapsed in 2009, attempts at holding new presidential elections have not come to fruition.
"We conducted general elections in 1996, 2005 and 2006, in addition to regular local elections. However, this democratic process was paralyzed by the coup by Hamas in 2007, which is an unbearable situation," Abbas said on Thursday, referring to the Islamic movement's 2006 electoral win in the Gaza Strip.
"Therefore, I have decided, upon my return from this international gathering, to announce a date for the holding of general elections in Palestine – in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip," Abbas said.
The Palestinian leader called on the UN and "relevant international organisations" to monitor the elections and promised to "attribute full responsibility to those who may attempt to prevent it from happening on the date determined".
Repeating another frequently made promise, Abbas said "all signed agreements" with Israel would be "terminated" if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu follows through with a campaign promise to annex parts of the Jordan Valley.
Abbas also condemned Israel's withholding of Palestinian Authority tax revenues and called on the international community for support.
Israel says the millions of dollars in tax revenue it is deducting out of payments to the PA are equal to the amount that the Ramallah-based government pays out to families of Palestinian political prisoners or of those killed by Israel.
Tax revenue accounts for more than half of the PA’s budget, and without its primary source of income, Abbas's administration has been paying partial salaries to its employees, scaling back on services and increasing borrowing from local banks.
"We are confident that the international community will not accept Israel’s arbitrary decision to withhold our revenues, and to confiscate a part of it, which is deepening the suffering of our people and preventing us from fulfilling our financial obligations towards them," Abbas said.
Abbas also condemned massive "immoral and inhumane" aid cuts made by the US, particularly those to the UN's Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA).
"[The US] somehow speaks of the so-called 'Deal of the Century' and peddles deceptive and illusive economic 'solutions', after it destroyed by its policies and measures all possibilities to achieve peace," Abbas said.
The PA leader said US policies have done nothing to achieve peace, but have instead "emboldened the government of the Israeli occupation".
Still, Abbas said he remains committed to a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel.