Abbas said to snub visiting Republican Congress members

‘I think he saw the Republicans as maybe not worth his time,’ says GOP lawmaker, days after Palestinian president met with delegation of Democrats

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to Palestinian leaders at the Muqata, the PA headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 25, 2019. (Wafa news agency)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to Palestinian leaders at the Muqata, the PA headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 25, 2019. (Wafa news agency)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly snubbed a visiting delegation of Republican Congress members on Tuesday, sending other senior officials to meet them in his place.

Abbas had been due to meet with the 31-member GOP delegation led by Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA,) a week after he met with a similar Democratic delegation, but backed out at the last minute, a participant told the Jewish Insider.

“He cancelled on the Republicans,” Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) said, adding that he opted not to go to Ramallah once he found out that Abbas would not be attending.

“I think it’s because the administration has been awfully hard on Palestinians and very supportive of Israel — which is the right thing to do — and I think he saw the Republicans as maybe not worth his time,” Gonzalez said.

The Palestinians have been boycotting the Trump administration since it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It has also cut almost all aid to the Palestinians.

The delegation was met instead by PLO General Secretary Saeb Erekat and PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (2nd L) meets with a delegation of Republican lawmakers led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (2nd R) in Ramallah on August 13, 2019. (Wafa)

Shtayyeh reiterated to the Republican lawmakers the Palestinian demand for a two-state solution.

“The peace process needs serious intentions; Israel does not have these intentions and the US is biased toward Israel,” the official PA news site Wafa quoted Shtayyeh as saying.

While the two-state solution is accepted by most of the international community and by previous US administrations, Israel and the US have been moving away from endorsing it in recent years.

The Wafa report did not mention Abbas’s absence.

Last week Abbas did meet with a 41-member Democratic delegation led by  House majority leader Steny Hoyer, telling them that he will not accept American “dictates.”

Both delegations were organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, a group connected to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a Washington-based, non-governmental organization that works to strengthen ties between the US and Israel.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, right, and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy with a delegation of members of the United States House of Representatives in Jerusalem, August 11, 2019 (courtesy Hadari Photography)

While Abbas did not meet the GOP lawmakers, he did meet Tuesday with two members of Israel’s left-wing Democratic Camp electoral alliance, including a granddaughter of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

MK Issawi Frej and Noa Rothman said they met with Abbas to draw attention to the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate ahead of general elections in September, amid growing calls for annexation of West Bank settlements by right-wing figures.

Rothman, whose grandfather signed the Oslo Accords that created the PA, tweeted after the meeting that she was “furious and disappointed” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hasn’t done more to advance the peace process over the past decade.

“The inaction of Netanyahu and his disregard for the Palestinian issue proves time and time again that he himself is not a partner to the creation of hope for future generations,” said the Knesset candidate, who is placed ninth on the Democratic Camp party’s slate.

Bill Clinton looks on as Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shake hands during the historic signing of the Oslo Accords, September 13, 1993. On the far right, current Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (GPO)

Rothman described Abbas as “a leader concerned by the radicalization of the Israeli people and Palestinian people and by the absence of hope and dialogue; a leader who understands that both parties have no other home, and that we have much to lose by the persistence of this conflict and its bloody price.”

Channel 13 news quoted Abbas as saying Netanyahu had refused to meet with him multiple times and that he hopes the next government will agree to speak with him.

Frej linked the Ramallah meeting to growing right-wing calls for the Israeli government to apply its sovereignty to the West Bank.

“At a time when the Netanyahu government is doing everything it can to advance annexation and prevent the two-state solution, the Democratic Camp is waving the diplomatic banner that is based on the understanding that the right of the Palestinians for a state alongside Israel is also an Israeli interest,” tweeted Frej.

Netanyahu is seeking a public declaration from US President Donald Trump ahead of the September elections backing an Israeli move to extend its sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the West Bank, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office told Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language site, on Sunday.

US President Donald Trump, left, turns to give a pen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, at the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019 after signing the official proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. From left, White House adviser Jared Kushner, US special envoy Jason Greenblatt, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AP/Susan Walsh)

The PMO denied the report.

The White House has yet to reveal the political vision of its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, though US officials have refrained from endorsing statehood for the Palestinians under a two-state framework while favoring Palestinian “autonomy.” The economic portion of the plan was unveiled in Bahrain in June.

The PA, which rejected the plan outright.

Abbas over the weekend said settlements in the West Bank will be swept into “the dustbins of history” and contended that Palestinians are the original inhabitants of the region according to the Biblical history. Abbas made the comments in a strongly worded speech during the course of an extremely rare visit to a refugee camp in the West Bank days after Israeli officials pushed forward thousands of new Jewish homes.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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