The declaration also set up a direct confrontation with the United States, which has said it will veto a Palestinian membership resolution in the Security Council. Under U.N. rules, a state applying for U.N. membership must receive the Security Council’s recommendation, followed by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly to grant the application.
“We are going to the Security Council,” Abbas said to sustained applause in remarks broadcast on Palestinian television. “As soon as I address the General Assembly, I will submit the letter of application to the secretary general of the United Nations, so that he will pass on this application to the chairman of the Security Council.”
“Our choice is the Security Council,” Abbas added. “As for other options, we will not make a decision on them. We will decide about any other options later.”
Abbas is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Sept. 23.
Palestinian officials have said that if their bid is thwarted at the Security Council, they could ask the General Assembly, where there is no veto, to elevate the Palestinians’ status to that of a non-member observer state, in effect conferring formal international recognition.
Abbas’s announcement was promptly rejected by Israel.
“Peace is not achieved by going unilaterally to the United Nations,” said a statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. “Peace will be achieved only through direct negotiations with Israel.”
The statement added: “The Palestinian Authority and its leader are consistently evading direct negotiations with Israel. When the Palestinian Authority abandons futile moves such as going unilaterally to the U.N., it will find in Israel a partner to direct negotiations for peace.”
In his remarks, which formally inaugurated the U.N. membership bid, Abbas argued that efforts to negotiate an end to Israeli occupation had reached a “dead end.” But he said the Palestinians were prepared to resume talks with Israel on all outstanding issues after receiving international recognition of statehood.
“The negotiations will be state-to-state: one an occupier, and the other under occupation,” he said.
“The occupation will not end the day after recognition,” he said, “but we will have gained recognition of the world that our state is occupied and our land is occupied, not disputed, as propagated by the Israeli government.”
“We are not going [to the United Nations] in order to isolate Israel or delegitimize it,” Abbas added. “We want to isolate the policy of the state of Israel, and we want to delegitimize the occupation.”
Abbas also parried accusations by Israel and Washington that the U.N. initiative was a unilateral move in a conflict that should be resolved through negotiations. “We are going in order to address 193 states, and it is called a unilateral step,” he said, citing the number of member states in the United Nations.
He exhorted Palestinians at home and abroad to keep demonstrations in support of the U.N. bid nonviolent.
“All the activities must be peaceful,” he said. “Don’t give them an excuse,” he added, referring to the Israelis. “Any deviation on this issue from peaceable [demonstrations] will harm us and destroy our efforts.”
Abbas pledged that efforts to carry out a reconciliation agreement between his faction, Fatah, and the militant Islamic group Hamas, which rules Gaza, would continue, despite disagreements that so far have stymied movement to implement the accord.
Countering arguments that U.N. recognition of a state along the 1967 boundaries with Israel would push aside the Palestine Liberation Organization, which currently has observer status in the United Nations, Abbas asserted that the organization would continue to represent Palestinians everywhere.
The PLO, Abbas said, remains “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” until it achieves independence and all outstanding disputes with Israel are resolved — primarily the issue of Palestinian refugees — and the results are implemented on the ground.