PA is 'fighting terror more than most countries'

Abbas decries ‘big conspiracy’ facing Palestinian cause

PA president says he doesn’t expect anything from Trump due to ‘flagrant bias,’ says US president’s ‘sinful’ Jerusalem recognition ‘defied the belief’ of Muslims and Christians

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a press conference on Jerusalem, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on April 11, 2018. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a press conference on Jerusalem, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on April 11, 2018. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

The Palestinians are facing a “big conspiracy” targeting their cause, rights and capital, Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas charged on Wednesday.

In a speech before the Beit Al Maqdes (Jerusalem) Islamic International Conference in Ramallah, he said that the “conspiracy” began more than 100 years ago with the Balfour Declaration.

As part of that “conspiracy,” Abbas said, Israel has sought to “change the historic and legal status of the holy sites in Jerusalem by installing metal detectors” at the entrances to the Temple Mount.

Israel installed the metal detectors after terrorists killed two police officers outside the Temple Mount compound with guns smuggled into the holy site in July 2017. It removed them shortly afterward, amid massive protests and international pressure.

Waqf officials lead Muslim prayers outside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 16, with metal detector gates in the background. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Abbas also dismissed talk about establishing a Palestinian state in Jordan. “In Palestine and Jordan, we are one people in two states — the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Palestine,” he said. “Those who think otherwise can die in their rage.”

US President Donald Trump’s “sinful” December decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which “defied the belief of hundreds of millions of Muslims and Christians and contravened international laws and resolutions,” was also part of the conspiracy the Palestinians are facing, Abbas charged.

He renewed his call for holding an international conference to come up with a “multilateral mechanism” for sponsoring future peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel.

The US, he reiterated, was no longer qualified to act as an honest broker in any peace process because of its “flagrant bias” in favor of Israel.

“A mediator needs to be impartial,” Abbas said. “In this case, impartiality is absent, and that’s why we have said that we want collective mediation through an international conference.”

He expressed hope that the upcoming Arab summit, slated to take place in Saudi Arabia next week, would endorse the Palestinian demand for sidelining the US by convening such a conference.

Referring to Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for peace, which the US president has called the “deal of the century,” Abbas said: “I don’t know what is the deal of the century. Honestly, we’re not expecting anything from [the Americans]. We won’t accept anything from them.”

Abbas pointed out that Congress considers the PLO a terror group, “although we are fighting terror more than most of the countries of the world.” The Palestinians, he said, have signed protocols for combating terrorism with 83 countries.

“How can we fight terrorism when Congress is calling us terrorists?” he asked. “We therefore demand that the US administration clarify this issue. We want them to prove that we are terrorists, although we are fighting terrorism more than them.”

He was apparently referring to demands by some US legislators that the PLO Mission Office in Washington be closed and that financial aid to the Palestinians be suspended over payments made by the PA to the families of security prisoners and “martyrs” responsible for terrorism and violence.

Palestinian protestors wave their national flag during a demonstration commemorating near the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on March 30, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Referring to the recent events along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, Abbas said that the Palestinians were demonstrating far from the security fence and were not carrying weapons.

“Although the demonstrators are far from the border, the Israelis have used snipers to kill them,” he complained. “They shot someone while he was praying and another person while he was running. Our brothers in Hamas have endorsed the peaceful popular resistance, and I want to congratulate them for waking up and realizing that the peaceful popular resistance is more effective.”

Israeli forces have killed 31 Palestinians since March 30, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry figures, in mass protests that the Palestinians dub the “March of the Return.” Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that several of those killed were its members.

Israel says it opens fire when necessary to stop damage to the border fence, infiltrations and attempted attacks. It alleges that Hamas, whose leaders have said the demonstrations are ultimately aimed at erasing the border and liberating Palestine, is seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.

Last Friday, during the second week of a series of events set to culminate on May 15, about 20,000 Palestinians demonstrated along the Gaza border in what Israel has described as a riot orchestrated by Hamas, and what Palestinians say was supposed to be a peaceful protest.

Israel’s army spokesman Ronen Manelis specified that evening that eight explosive devices and numerous petrol bombs were thrown during the day, and that the IDF faced several attempts “to cut through the fence…. There were attempts to carry out acts of terrorism … using the smoke [from burning tires] for cover,” Manelis said.

Abbas said that Jerusalem was the “eternal capital of Palestine — it was, still is and shall remain forever as such.”

Jerusalem, Abbas said, “belongs to us and is our political and spiritual capital. When we say that Jerusalem is our eternal capital, we’re not coming up with anything new. Our Jebusite and Canaanite ancestors built Jerusalem as their capital, and since then there has always been Arab and Palestinian presence in the city.

“We are the descendants of the Canaanites.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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