Abbas: We want America’s friendship, but it must deal with us justly

Abbas: We want America’s friendship, but it must deal with us justly

Palestinian leader calls on Trump to ‘implement’ UN Security Council resolution that deemed settlements illegal during waning days of Obama presidency

PA President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at a Christmas Eve dinner in Bethlehem, December 24, 2019. (Wafa)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at a Christmas Eve dinner in Bethlehem, December 24, 2019. (Wafa)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday said Palestinians “want America’s friendship and good relations” but that Washington “must deal with us in a just way.”

The past year has seen a nadir in US-Palestinian relations following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017 and his decision to relocate the US embassy there. Ramallah responded by cutting most ties to the US administration, which retaliated by withdrawing almost all aid to the PA.

“In the past year, President Trump undertook initiatives in total violation of international law as he recognized a united Jerusalem as the State of Israel’s capital… moved his embassy to Jerusalem, punished all refugees by shutting the doors on UNRWA [the UN Palestinian aid agency] and clearly legalized settlement building. We told him we cannot accept this talk,” Abbas said, according to a Wafa readout of the remarks made at a Christmas Eve dinner in Bethlehem. The dinner was attended by Jordanian Interior Minister Samir Mubaidin, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, top Fatah official Jabril Rajoub, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah, and other church leaders and Palestinian officials.

“We want President Trump to rescind this and to implement international law,” said Abbas. “At the least, there is a resolution that was passed during his time — he was not in the White House yet but it was after he became president — by the Security Council bearing the number 2334. He rejects implementing it even though it was issued during his time. This is what we want from President Trump.”

UNSC Resolution 2334 was adopted on December 23, 2017 and supported by 14 out of the 15 members of the Council, including the UK. The US abstained and did not use its veto power to block the resolution that says Israeli settlements are in violation of international law, have no legal validity and demands an end to settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The resolution also denounces terrorism and incitement to violence.

Israel responded furiously to the UN vote, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading the heated response, much of which was directed at the Obama administration that, he said, had colluded with the Palestinians and helped draft the resolution, a claim Washington denied.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas pose for a photograph during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

Abbas said in his Monday speech that he still wanted good relations with the new administration, despite the bad blood that has developed over the past year.

“We are not enemies of anyone and we are not enemies of America,” Abbas said. “We want America’s friendship and good relations with it. However, it must deal with us in a just way. We are not asking for anything more than that.”

Earlier Monday, a White House official said the Trump administration was taking the springtime Israeli election into account in planning the unveiling of its long-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

“The upcoming election in Israel on April 9 is one of many factors we are considering in evaluating the timing of the release of the peace plan,” the US official said, hours after Israel’s coalition leaders announced that the national polls would be moved up by seven months.

The Trump proposal was expected to be rolled out in the coming months. The plan, details of which have been scant, is unlikely to be welcomed by either side. Israel’s Hadashot TV news suggested Monday night that the US would likely delay the release of the plan until after the elections, in order not to complicate political life for Netanyahu ahead of the vote with a proposal that would involve compromises by Israel, possibly including over Jerusalem.

In addition to increasing political uncertainty in Israel, the White House must also factor in how the peace plan will be received by the Palestinian Authority, with Abbas having vowed to oppose the deal.

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House on March 5, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Last week, outgoing US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called on Israelis and Palestinians to back the US peace plan, saying it was far more “thoughtful” and creative than any that have come before.

Without revealing details of the plan, drawn up by Trump’s son-in-law and special adviser Jared Kushner, Haley said it was far longer than past proposals and included elements that would have previously been “unthinkable.”

“There are things in the plan that every party will like, and there are things in the plan that every party will not like,” said Haley, who will be replaced by State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

Haley said that if countries focus solely on parts of the plan that they do not like, “we would return back to the failed status quo of the last 50 years with no prospects for change.”

But she said, “I assure you there is a lot for both sides to like.”

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