Abbas says Palestinians slapped Washington in the face over peace plan
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Abbas says Palestinians slapped Washington in the face over peace plan

PA chief says Trump is attempting to carry out ‘Slap of the Century,’ but West Bank leadership struck back

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Fourth National Forum for the Fourth Industrial Revolution during the forum's opening session in the West Bank city of Ramallah, September 9, 2019. (Nasser Nasser/AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Fourth National Forum for the Fourth Industrial Revolution during the forum's opening session in the West Bank city of Ramallah, September 9, 2019. (Nasser Nasser/AP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday said he’d “slapped” the US administration in the face by rejecting US President Donald Trump’s promised peace plan.

In a speech Monday, Abbas derisively referred to the US peace plan, known colloquially as the “Deal of the Century,” as the “Slap of the Century.”

“Some have tried to give us the slap of the century, but we slapped them in their faces,” he said during a ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death.

Trump has not yet released the plan or said when it will be released. But Abbas has preemptively rejected it, accusing the White House of being unfairly biased toward Israel.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas pose for a photograph during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

The PA has boycotted Washington since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. The administration responded by cutting all aid to the Palestinians.

The PA has been in deep financial crisis since February when Israel froze transfers of VAT and customs duties it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf, due to its handouts to prisoners convicted of terrorism as well as the families of dead terrorists.

Abbas’s administration had to impose austerity measures, cutting almost half the salaries of its employees.

“Israel came to say that martyrs are criminals, terrorists and killers,” Abbas said. “We will never accept giving up on our martyrs. They are the holiest of what we have. Our martyrs, prisoners and wounded persons are the holiest of what we have.”

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner unveiled the economic aspects of the peace initiative in June with a conference in Bahrain, in which he dangled $50 billion in investment for the region if the Palestinians agree on a political deal.

Illustrative: In this June 25, 2019, photo released by Bahrain News Agency, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, fifth from left, and Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, sixth from left, listen to White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, standing, during the opening session of the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Manama, Bahrain (Bahrain News Agency via AP)

The Palestinian leadership has said Washington is attempting to buy its acceptance of the plan — which apparently will not follow the two-state solution — through economic incentives, while ignoring key issues and failing to support the Palestinians’ desire for a contiguous, independent state.

Kushner last month downplayed the nadir in ties.

“I wouldn’t call it a crisis,” he told Israel’s Channel 13 news. “I mean, America’s doing just fine. We’re willing to engage with the Palestinians but we’re not willing to do it in a way where America’s disrespected and we’re not wanting to do it in a way where we’re making bad investments.”

He asserted that the Palestinian rejection of US efforts was mostly posturing.

“At the end of the day I believe people will be rational actors,” he said.

Washington had planned to unveil the political component of its plan once a new government was formed in Jerusalem. Now, with Israeli politics still in a deadlock, it’s not clear when the proposal will be released.

Adam Rasgon and Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

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