Abbas pans new US embassy as a ‘settlement outpost’ in Jerusalem

Abbas pans new US embassy as a ‘settlement outpost’ in Jerusalem

PA chief says he won’t enter American-led negotiations, calls for 3 days of mourning over Gaza deaths; Erekat says peace process buried

Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Saeb Erekat. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Saeb Erekat. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Hours after the United States moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on Monday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas slammed the new mission as a “settlement outpost.”

Abbas vowed that the Palestinians will not engage in peace talks mediated by the US “in any way, shape or form.”

He convened an emergency meeting in Ramallah following the dedication of the new embassy, which he said was “a new settlement outpost, just like the Israeli settlements,” and an “assault on our sovereignty, an assault on our established rights,” according to a translation from Al-Jazeera.

“Palestine is for the Palestinians and is not, as the Jews claim, the land of their ancestors,” he said, echoing comments he made in several recent speeches, including an address earlier this month that was widely denounced as anti-Semitic.

The new US embassy is housed in the compound that was previously the US consulate in Arnona, at the southern edge of Jerusalem. The compound straddles the pre-1967 armistice border known as the Green Line.

Abbas also condemned the Israeli response to violence on the Gaza border, which saw at least 52 Palestinian protesters shot dead in clashes earlier in the day, according to Hamas’s Gaza Healthy Ministry.

“We call on the international community, and especially the Arab and Muslim states, to act and act swiftly” against the “massacres being perpetrated against our peaceful people,” Abbas said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 2nd left, his wife Sara Netanyahu, left, Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner 3rd left, US President’s daughter Ivanka Trump, center, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, right, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, 2nd right, attend the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP)

The PA leader also called a three-day general strike to mourn the Palestinians killed in Gaza.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat accused US President Donald Trump’s administration of “burying” peace hopes by moving the embassy, which he similarly branded an illegal “settlement outpost.”

“We also witnessed today a ceremony of the prime minister of Israel and the administration of President Trump burying the peace process, burying the two-state solution, killing the hope in the minds of the people of the Middle East as a whole with the possibility of peace,” Erekat said.

Earlier, he blasted the US administration ahead of the embassy move, saying Trump had violated a promise to hold off on moving the embassy to give peace talks a chance and that his administration was “based on lies.”

Palestinian protesters look at tear gas and smoke billowing from burning tires, east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. (Mohammed ABED/AFP)

Erekat said the Trump administration has “become part of the problem, not part of the solution.” He indicated that Trump’s Mideast team was unqualified, saying, “The world needs real leaders, and those [White House officials] are real estate dealers, not leaders.”

Also on Monday, Trump’s chief Mideast peace negotiator said the embassy move was a “necessary condition” to a lasting peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Jason Greenblatt wrote on Twitter that “the long-overdue step of moving our Embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal.”

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on, at the White House, on December 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Tens of thousands of Palestinians attended violent protests on the Gaza border on Monday and hundreds of others clashed with Israeli troops on the outskirts of Jerusalem and in other locations in the West Bank, marking the 70th anniversary of what they call the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s creation in 1948, as well as protesting the embassy relocation.

The IDF  launched several airstrikes in the Strip, and cited three attempted attacks by armed men against Israeli forces during the riots — two teams of gunmen who opened fire at IDF soldiers and one group that tried to plant an improvised explosive device along the border.

Military sources said the Hamas terror group was determined to spark a major new, long-term uprising against Israel, extending to the West Bank.

The IDF’s spokesman said Hamas deployed 12 separate terrorist “cells” to try to breach the border at different locations, and that all were rebuffed.

Trump announced on December 6, 2017, that he was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would move the US Embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.

Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as their future capital and view the Trump administration’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital as a show of pro-Israel bias.

Some 800 guests attended Monday’s embassy inauguration. Representing the US at the opening were US Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt. US Ambassador David Friedman presided over the dedication ceremony.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin also addressed the ceremony, and other senior Israeli officials were on hand.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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