Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the US administration’s peace plan at the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, but said he would be willing to open negotiations with Israel under the patronage of the Quartet and on the basis of international resolutions.
“I came to all of you today to affirm the Palestinian position which rejects the American-Israeli deal,” Abbas said at the beginning of his remarks to the Security Council.
“It legalized what is illegal: settlement building and confiscation and annexation of Palestinian lands,” he said. “I affirm, here, that it is necessary that this deal or any part of it not be considered an international reference for negotiations.”
The PA president added that the plan “transforms our homeland into fragmented residential encampments” and described the territories it envisions for a future state of Palestine as “Swiss cheese.”
“This deal carries within it dictates, reinforcement of the occupation, annexation by military force and anchoring of an apartheid system,” he said.
Breaking with past American administrations, the US plan announced late last month envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in about 70 percent of the West Bank, a small handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of Gaza and some areas of southern Israel — if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the coastal enclave, and fulfill other conditions.
The plan also allows Israel to annex settlements, grants the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and overriding security control west of the Jordan River, and bars Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel.
Abbas also said Tuesday he was prepared to launch negotiations with Israel under the patronage of the Quartet, made-up of the US, Russia, the UN and the European Union, and on the basis of international resolutions, if Israel showed it was a partner for peace.
“I am serious about what I say. I am prepared to stay here in the headquarters of international legitimacy to begin these negotiations immediately,” he said.
The PA president also insinuated that Trump was misled into making a number of decisions that have been seen as undercutting the Palestinians.
“I do not know who gave him these abominable recommendations,” he said. “President Trump is not that way. I know he is not like that. I do not know where these behaviors came from.”
Since late 2017, the Trump administration has made several moves viewed as marginalizing the Palestinians: recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians and the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees, and closing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s representative office in Washington.
Responding to Abbas’s remarks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the Trump plan as “the best plan for the Middle East, the State of Israel, and the Palestinians,”
“The plan recognizes the reality and rights of the people of Israel, which you consistently refuse to recognize,” Netanyahu said at a Likud campaign stop in the city of Bat Yam, addressing Abbas.
Abbas also said the Palestinians would not “resort to violence and terrorism regardless of the act of aggression against us.”
“We believe in peace and fighting violence,” he said. “We will fight by way of popular, peaceful resistance.”
Abbas has frequently stated that he opposes violence as a means to advance the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership’s goals.
The PA president also specifically addressed Israelis: “On this occasion, I turn to the Israeli people to say to [you] that the continuation of settlement building and military rule over another people will not bring you security and peace. We only have one choice: To be partners and neighbors — each in its independent, sovereign state.”
He also stated that Palestinians do not oppose Judaism or Jews.
“Our conflict is not with the followers of the Jewish religion. We are not against Jews,” he said. “The Muslim that says, ‘I am against the Jew,’ he has reneged on his faith. If you say, ‘I am against the Jew or the Torah,’ you are an infidel and not a Muslim.”
While Abbas has made highly controversial remarks about Jewish history in the past, he has consistently said he respects the Jewish religion.
His speech on Tuesday struck a different tone than the one he delivered to the Arab League on February 1 in Cairo about the plan, as he did not criticize Trump administration officials by name and did not make a reference to the Palestinians cutting ties with the US or Israel.
At the Arab League, Abbas said the Palestinians had informed Israel and the US that there “will be no relations with you…including security relations.”
A senior Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times of Israel last week that while the PA had not halted security coordination with Israel, ties between the two sides were tense.
The Palestinians cut off communications with the White House after Trump announced the US would relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in late 2017 but maintained ties with American security officials.
It is unclear whether the Palestinians have halted their contacts with American security officials.
Abbas arrived in New York City on Monday ahead of his speech at the Security Council and is slated to meet with former prime minister Ehud Olmert later on Tuesday.