Abbas to Arab leaders: US will tell Israel to annex part of West Bank
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Abbas to Arab leaders: US will tell Israel to annex part of West Bank

PA president urges Arab states to warn countries against moving their embassies to Jerusalem; calls for a ‘financial safety net’ for the PA

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Secretary-General Saeb Erekat (L) attend the opening session of the 30th Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis on March 31, 2019. (Fethi Belaid/Pool/AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Secretary-General Saeb Erekat (L) attend the opening session of the 30th Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis on March 31, 2019. (Fethi Belaid/Pool/AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Arab leaders on Sunday that the United States will tell Israel to annex part of the West Bank.

Abbas made the comment less than a week after US President Donald Trump formally recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, but did not say when he expected the US to advise Israel to make the move.

“[The US] illegitimately announced its recognition of Israel annexing the occupied Syrian Golan… which we and the whole world reject. What is coming from the United States is even more dangerous,” Abbas said in a speech to the opening session of an Arab League summit in Tunisia. “It will tell Israel: ‘Annex part of the Palestinian land, give what remains of it self-rule and grant the Gaza Strip a nominal state for Hamas to play with.’”

Israel has not formally annexed the Golan, but rather has extended its laws to the territory, a measure considered tantamount to annexation.

A senior Israeli official said last Tuesday that US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan will help the Jewish state lay claim to other lands it captured during defensive wars. The official, whom the New York Times named as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appeared to be hinting at potential future West Bank annexation.

Also last week, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman warned American Jews that a future administration will not understand Israel’s need to maintain security control over the West Bank, suggesting that Trump will not force Israel to relinquish the territory that Palestinians envision as their own in a future state.

Right-wing leaders such as The New Right’s Naftali Bennett have long advocated for Israeli annexation of the so-called Area C, some 60% of the West Bank.

Arab countries including Saudi Arabia have panned the US for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.

Israel captured the Golan and the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War.

Abbas also urged Arab states to caution countries against moving their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem.

View of the US Embassy in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood, May 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“We call on you again to warn against Israel’s attempts to push some countries to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem,” he said. “This issue requires that our states inform those countries that if they do that, they will be violating international law and legitimacy and endangering and harming their political and economic interests and relations with us.”

In the past year, despite fierce Palestinian opposition, the US and Guatemala have opened embassies in Jerusalem. While the Palestinians have severed ties with the White House and cut off other Trump administration channels, Arab states have made no such moves.

The Palestinians have said they hope to build their future capital in East Jerusalem. Israel has stated that the entirety of Jerusalem is its sovereign capital.

In his remarks, the PA president also appealed to Arab countries to help the Palestinians in overcoming a major budgetary shortfall.

“We urge you to work to activate previous Arab League summit decisions pertaining to providing a financial safety net” to the Palestinians, he said. “We ask you not to give up on us.”

An Arab League summit in Kuwait in 2010 approved a measure to grant the Palestinians $100 million monthly, if Israel withholds tax funds that it collects on their behalf.

In February, Israel started to implement a new law that allows authorities to withhold taxes from Ramallah equivalent to the amount that they determine the Palestinians pay to security prisoners, including terrorists, and the families of dead terrorists.

The Palestinians have protested the law, refusing to receive any of the taxes Israel gathers for them on a monthly basis, as long as the Jewish state does not transfer them their full amount.

The taxes Israel collects and transfers to the PA make up hundreds of millions of shekels, more than half of its monthly budget.

PA Finance Minister Shukri Bishara recently announced a series of austerity measures to mitigate the impact of the lack of funds on government operations.

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