Abbas says Trump’s Jerusalem decision ends historic US role as peace broker

PA leader calls for emergency meeting of PLO to form a response; says move is a reward to Israel for ‘occupation, settlement, apartheid and ethnic cleansing’

Dov Lieber is a former Times of Israel Arab affairs correspondent.

US President Donald Trump , left, and President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas stand for their national anthems during an arrival ceremony ahead of their meeting in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, May 23, 2017. (AP/Nasser Nasser)
US President Donald Trump , left, and President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas stand for their national anthems during an arrival ceremony ahead of their meeting in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, May 23, 2017. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday said US President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has ended Washington’s historic role as the key sponsor for Israel-Palestinian peace talks, and called for an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership.

“These reprehensible and rejected measures constitute a deliberate undermining of all peace efforts,” said Abbas of Trump’s decision.

Abbas said Trump’s speech “represents a declaration that the United States has withdrawn from playing the role it has played in the past decades in sponsoring the peace process.”

Abbas accused Trump of “violating international resolutions and bilateral agreements,” and said the decision was a “reward to Israel for denying agreements and defying international legitimacy that encourages it to continue the policy of occupation, settlement, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”

Since the early 1990s, the US has been the key mediator for peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

US President Donald Trump delivers a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC on December 6, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Earlier Trump broke with decades of US and international policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said he had directed the US State Department to begin the process of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as required by US law.

Trump maintained that his decision would not compromise the city’s geographic and political borders, which will still be determined by Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinian leader said he was calling for an “emergency meeting” of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Committee to create a “unified national position” and put “all options before it.”

Abbas’s Fatah party earlier called for any protests of the US decision to be non-violent.

Trump’s Mideast peace team has held months of meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders for nearly a year ahead of an expected peace proposal.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends a Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, August 22, 2015 (Flash90)

By recognizing Israel’s claim to Jerusalem, Trump is seen by the Palestinians as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem — which Israel captured in 1967 — for their capital.

Abbas struck a defiant note in his remarks, saying that the American move would not change the reality on the ground.

“President Trump’s decision tonight will not change the reality of the city of Jerusalem, nor will it give any legitimacy to Israel in this regard, because it is an Arab Christian and Arab Muslim city, the capital of the eternal state of Palestine,” Abbas said.

Fatah is currently amid a stalled reconciliation process with the Hamas terror group that controls the Gaza Strip to end 10 years of Palestinian division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Abbas said the Jerusalem decision should serve as an incentive for Palestinian factions to end their division and unite.

“This historic moment should serve as an additional incentive for all of us to accelerate and intensify efforts to end division and restore Palestinian national unity to ensure the victory of our people in their struggle for freedom and independence,” he said.

“In close coordination with our friends from all over the world, we will remain a united front defending Jerusalem, peace and freedom and winning the rights of our people to end the occupation and achieve its national independence,” Abbas concluded.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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