Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened on Wednesday to cancel all agreements with Israel and the US if the Jewish state moves forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
The warning made during a pre-Ramadan video address marked Abbas’s first public response to the unity government inked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz on Monday, which will allow Netanyahu to begin advancing annexation measures starting on July 1, 2020.
Abbas said that he would regard agreements with Israel and the United States as “absolutely null” if Israel moves forward with the move as promised by Netanyahu.
While he said his government was laser-focused on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, the Palestinian leader warned that “nobody should be under the illusion that they can exploit the current global occupation with the coronavirus pandemic to encroach upon our national rights.”
“We are on the lookout for anyone who might contemplate tampering with our right to… a free and independent state on our territory with East Jerusalem as its capital in line with international legitimacy resolutions.”
“We will take every decision or measures necessary to safeguard our national rights and fundamental principles,” he asserted, adding that he had passed the message along to both Israeli and American authorities.
Abbas has threatened to cancel agreements with Israel on numerous occasions in the past, but has never followed through.
In a separate statement, Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh responded to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who asserted on Wednesday that Israel’s annexation plans were not something for Washington to interfere with.
The US does not have the right to dispossess the Palestinians of their land, nor give Israel legitimacy to seize Palestinian land, Abu Rudeinah said, according to the Wafa official Palestinian news site.
He added that Pompeo’s comments are further proof that the US is unfit to mediate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki discussed Israel’s annexation plans with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, Wafa separately reported.
Al-Malki urged Le Drian to rally Europe to the side of the Palestinians to stop Israel’s plans.
Speaking to EU diplomat Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Israel’s annexation drive will destroy the two-state solution, urging the Quartet to stymie Jerusalem, according to Wafa.
According to the unity agreement inked on Monday, Netanyahu “will be able to bring the agreement reached with the US on the application of sovereignty [in the West Bank]… for the approval of the cabinet and/or the Knesset starting July 1, 2020.”
The deal stipulates that Netanyahu and Gantz will act in “full agreement with the US, including on the issue of [West Bank] maps, and in dialogue with the international community.”
Washington has largely indicated support for Israel’s annexation goals, though it has conditioned practical measures on a new government being formed and a joint US-Israel mapping team completing its efforts to determine exactly which West Bank land Israel will be allowed to annex. Their work has been hindered due to the coronavirus, though the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office told the Makor Rishon newspaper that the pandemic has not forced a total cessation of efforts.
Still, some analysts speculate that Washington may be more hesitant to allow such a far-reaching move to go forward just months before the November presidential election.
Gantz and Netanyahu will advance the Trump peace plan, “while pursuing the security and strategic interests, maintaining regional stability, [maintaining existing] peace agreements and striving for future ones,” the unity agreement further reads.
Though Gantz has indicated he opposes unilateral annexation, he has agreed to allow Netanyahu to bring the matter to a Knesset vote, and enact it if he gets a majority — which he is almost assured.
Palestinian officials have yet to comment on the Monday announcement from the US that it would be sending $5 million in aid for Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank.
The US pledged the relatively small, but symbolic one-time donation last week after having previously cut all foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority.
“We were happy to provide that assistance. We hope it’ll get to the right place,” Pompeo said Wednesday.
Opening the door to the possibility of additional funds, Pompeo said “we’ll evaluate whether those five million dollars both worked, [were] delivered and… if there [are] more resources that are appropriate and can be delivered.”
According to a press release issued by the State Department, the sum comes from the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, an organizational unit within the US Agency for International Development (USAID) that deals with the government’s disaster relief.