If new president does relocate embassy, PA will 'take steps'

Abbas doesn’t believe Trump will move US embassy to Jerusalem

PA chief ‘disappointed’ Netanyahu will skip Paris peace summit, hopes it will further UN efforts to ‘end occupation’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at a rally marking the 12th anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, November 10, 2016. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at a rally marking the 12th anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, November 10, 2016. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday he was “disappointed” to learn that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not attend an international peace conference in Paris scheduled for January 15.

In a meeting with members of Israel’s left-wing Meretz party, Abbas said the recent UN Security Council resolution criticizing West Bank settlements was a welcome step toward “ending the occupation.”

Abbas said he hoped the upcoming Paris summit on the Mideast conflict would further advance that cause.

The Palestinian leader took issue with Israeli leaders’ characterization of Resolution 2334 as being anti-Israeli.

“I’ve looked over the resolution and haven’t found anything against Israel — only against the settlements and the illegal outposts,” Abbas said.

The PA chief also told Meretz members he did not believe US President-elect Donald Trump would move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, despite Trump and his team having made statements to that effect during the campaign as well as after his election win.

Abbas said the Palestinian leadership was currently showing patience on the matter, understanding that campaign promises were not necessarily a reflection of how Trump would actually govern.

He noted that moving the embassy would have “irreversible” consequences, and warned that if Trump did relocate it, the PA would “take steps” in response. He did not elaborate.

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has warned that if the embassy were moved, the PLO would revoke its recognition of Israel and any hope of Israeli-Palestinian peace would gone. Erekat said last month that all American embassies in the Arab world would be forced to close — not necessarily because Arab leaderships would want to close them, but because the infuriated public in the Arab world would not “allow” for the embassies to continue to operate.

Netanyahu on Tuesday said Israel’s key diplomatic task in the coming two weeks was to prevent an additional Palestine-related resolution at the Security Council.

Addressing a conference of Israeli ambassadors and chiefs of mission in Europe at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said that it was likely that any conclusions reached at the Paris summit could be turned into another resolution.

“The Paris Conference is irrelevant,” he said. “But there are signs that they are trying to turn decisions made there into another Security Council resolution, and that is no longer irrelevant.”

On December 23, the Security Council passed resolution 2334, which declared Israeli settlement outside the pre-1967 lines as having “no legal validity” and constituting “a flagrant violation under international law. Fourteen of 15 member states voted in favor of the text. The US abstained, allowing the resolution to pass.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has since delivered a lengthy speech in which he, again, criticized the settlements and laid out his vision of what a future Israeli-Palestinian peace deal could look like. However, he said that a final status agreement “can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties” and that the outgoing administration has no intention of imposing a solution on the sides.

US officials, including senior members of the White House’s national security team, have since vowed to veto any additional Security Council resolution on Israel, including one based on Kerry’s recommendations.

Abbas on Saturday told Fatah party officials that 2017 would be “the year of the independent Palestinian state.” He hailed the recent UN resolution as a diplomatic victory, adding that the Palestinians were ready to work with the incoming Trump presidency to achieve peace via a two-state solution.

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