Abbas: Settlements will be swept away, Palestinians came from ancient Canaanites

PA president says despite US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the city belongs to the Palestinians; charges Hamas’s leaders are working for Israel

Adam Rasgon is a former Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at an event hall in the Jalazone refugee camp on August 10, 2019. (Wafa)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at an event hall in the Jalazone refugee camp on August 10, 2019. (Wafa)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has asserted 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 over the weekend 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 settlement homes.

“We will remain and no one will be able to move us out of our homeland. He who wants to do that: ‘Go.’ The unexpected visitor in this country has no right in this country. Thus, we tell them: ‘Every brick you laid in our land and every house you built in our land will vanish, if God permits,'” Abbas said, speaking in an event hall at the Jalazone refugee camp, which is situated north of Ramallah and adjacent to the Israeli settlement of Beit El.

“Whatever homes they announce here or settlements there, they will all disappear, if God wills it. They will be in the dustbins of history and they will remember that this land is for its people, its residents and the Canaanites who were here 5,000 years ago. We are the Canaanites,” he added.

(L-R) Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Shtayyeh and President Mahmoud Abbas tour the Jalazone refugee camp in the West Bank on August 10, 2019. (Wafa)

Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that the PA president’s comments were solely alluding to settlers in the West Bank and not all Israelis.

“He was only referring to them,” he said, adding that “all settlement homes are illegitimate and illegal, according to international law.”

Abbas made the speech in Jalazone two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently expressed support for extending Israeli sovereignty over part of the West Bank, visited Beit El, where he participated in a cornerstone-laying ceremony for 650 new housing units in the settlement.

Days earlier, the Defense Ministry pushed ahead with approvals for over 2,300 more homes in the West Bank, many of them deep inside the territory Palestinians claim for a state of their own.

Abbas’s reference to the Canaanites, an ancient people who predated the Israelites’ settling of Canaan, according to the Biblical narrative, came in response to recent comments by Netanyahu that Palestinians only recently arrived in the area, said Mohammed Odeh, an official in Abbas’s office.

“He was refuting Netanyahu’s claim that Palestinians don’t have deep roots in the land and stating that we have a long history here,” Odeh said in a phone call Tuesday. 

Netanyahu said in early July that the ancestors of the Palestinians came from the Arabian Peninsula.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas touring the Jalazone refugee camp on August 10, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)

“There’s no connection between the ancient Philistines & the modern Palestinians, whose ancestors came from the Arabian Peninsula to the Land of Israel thousands of years later,” Netanyahu tweeted, attaching an article on a study that appears to back the theory that the biblical Philistines came from somewhere other than the Middle East.

Some Palestinians have contended that they are the descendants of the Philistines.

Abbas also said that despite the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the city belongs to the Palestinians.

“In spite of what they say — it’s the united [capital of Israel], it moves its embassy or does that — Jerusalem is ours,” he said. “All of the Palestinian people and the entire Arab, Muslim and Christian nations, all of them, will enter Jerusalem,” he said.

In late 2017, US President Donald Trump’s administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and initiated the relocation of the US Embassy to the city, infuriating the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership.

Abbas has frequently called for the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and declared that the city should be open to Muslims, Christians and Jews.

The PA president, however, has also previously emphasized in speeches the Muslim and Christian connection to Jerusalem, while leaving out references to its Jewish history.

In his remarks at Jalazone, Abbas also lashed out at the Hamas terror group, which has long been at loggerheads with his Fatah party.

“Enough of this division. In whose interest is this division? It is in the interest of the enemy and Hamas’s leaders are working for the enemy,” he said.

Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad, right, and Saleh al-Arouri, left, of Hamas talk to journalists after signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements ended their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

Since Hamas ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from the Gaza Strip in 2007, it has dominated the coastal enclave while the PA has controlled parts of the West Bank.

While the rival parties have signed a number of agreements to advance reconciliation efforts, they have failed to implement them. Most recently, Fatah and Hamas signed an Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation agreement in October 2017, but did not succeed in executing it on the ground.

Abbas was accompanied by senior Palestinian officials on his visit to Jalazone, including PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, senior PLO official Saeb Erekat and Fatah Central Committee member Hussein al-Sheikh.

At the end of his speech, he told residents of the refugee camp a new floor would be built for a center for handicapped persons in Jalazone. He also said two ambulances would be given to the camp.

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