Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday threatened to cut all ties with Israel if it annexes the Jordan Valley, and said the PA was also considering breaking off all its relations with the United States over its recent move saying West Bank settlement were “not inconsistent with international law.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly promised to quickly apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley — a quarter of the West Bank — if he is able to put together a new government amid ongoing political gridlock.
“We are closely monitoring” Netanyahu’s actions regarding the potential annexation of the territory, Abbas was quoted by Russian website Sputnik as telling Russian journalists. “If the Israeli premier really does something like this, we will turn to the UN, the International Criminal Court (ICC), and we’ll finally and irrevocably sever all relations with Israel.”
Last week, Abbas made a similar statement to the government-run news site Wafa, but only referred to signed agreements rather than all ties with Israel.
“All signed agreements with the Israeli side will have come to an end, if the Israeli side applies Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, the northern part of the Dead Sea or any part of the occupied Palestinian territories,” Abbas said.
Abbas has threatened in the past to cancel PA agreements with Israel, but has never actually done so. The Palestinian Authority also regularly threatens to complain about Jerusalem’s conduct to the ICC.
While Israel and the PA have frosty relations, the two maintain a vital security cooperation mechanism, which Abbas’s threat appeared to encompass shuttering.
The Palestinian leader also commented on the announcement last week by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that after legal consultations, Washington had concluded that the establishment of settlements in the West Bank was “not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”
In his announcement, Pompeo said the United States did not necessarily consider the settlements legal, but instead would defer to the judgment of Israeli courts.
The majority of settlers live in settlements that Israeli courts have judged legal.
“The Palestinian leadership does not intend to stand aside,” Abbas said. “Last week, we began our consultations with political forces on the steps that should be taken to counter the position taken by the Americans. We are even ready to break off completely all relations with them,” Abbas said.
In 2017, Ramallah cut ties with the Trump administration, which has slashed aid to Palestinians and made a number of decisions seen as favoring Israel.
While Palestinians and much of the international community condemned the US change in policy, Netanyahu and other right-wing leaders welcomed Pompeo’s announcement, as did centrist leader Benny Gantz.
Although it is largely symbolic, it fueled calls from settler supporters for increased construction or the annexation of parts of the West Bank.
On Tuesday, Palestinians held large protests across the West Bank to demonstrate against the decision.
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.