Abbas requests statehood at United Nations

September 23, 2011 12:50:15 PM PDT
It is time for a "Palestinian Spring."

That was the loud message today from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in his much-anticipated address to the U.N. General Assembly.

Palestine has been "reborn," said Abbas, in what was inarguably the speech of his life, and coming at a time when the otherwise subdued and rather meek leader has become energized and inspired.

What hasn't been successful through terrorism or war or negotiations, is now, Abbas hopes, possible through fiat and political pressure. That's why he formally proposed that the U.N. Security Council grant statehood for Palestine. There is little chance of that happening, of course, not with the U.S. threatening a veto. But Abbas has now thrown down the proverbial gauntlet and the response from his own people, who have had their doubts about his leadership abilities, was more than enthusiastic.

Now that he's made his case to the world, many experts believe it's time for Mr. Abbas to also make a strong case to his militant fellow Palestinians. If it's indeed time for a Palestinian Spring, they say, then it's also time to stop the terrorism in the Middle East.

You can't make the call for peace and harmony on one hand, and then sit on your hands and do nothing about the terrorist violence from some Palestinians. Abbas has always had a bizarre relationship with Hamas, which now rules Gaza. But now it's time, these experts say, for him to insist that the violence must stop. None of this will happen without Israel's help. And there are those who insist Israel has already done all it can. But the hard truth is that the building and expanding of Jewish settlements into Palestinian territory has done nothing but hurt the peace process.

The man who has pushed that, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also spoke to the General Assembly today. He offered a sobering rebuttal to any rose-colored-glasses view of the politics in the Middle East.

Militant Islamics are threatening the existence of Israel and world peace, he said. Of course, the bottom line for both Netanyahu and Abbas is to end terrorism. Both sides are inarguably hurt by it.

And then Netanyahu made an offer to Abbas: Let's meet here, at the U.N., right now, tonight, and start the negotiations.

So now we'll see. Pres. Abbas has taken the world stage, and the issue can no longer be swept under the rug. It's been 18 years since the Oslo agreement, and we remember the famous handshake on the White House lawn, with Pres. Clinton a hand on each of their backs pushing together Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin in what was both an uncomfortable for historic event.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11, right after 20/20.


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