A senior official in the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party said Thursday US Vice President Mike Pence was “unwanted in Palestine,” following his boss Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move met with widespread anger from the Palestinians.
Pence is set to visit Egypt, Israel and the West Bank later this month. When announcing the trip in October, the White House said Pence would hold meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas amid US efforts to relaunch peace talks. Trump spoke about the Pence visit in his speech Wednesday, with his vice president at his side, noting, “Vice President Pence will travel to the region in the coming days to reaffirm our commitment to work with partners throughout the Middle East to defeat radicalism that threatens the hopes and dreams of future generations.”
However, according to Jibril Rajoub, the secretary general of Fatah’s Central Committee, a meeting between the US vice president and Abbas is now off the table.
“In the name of Fatah, I say we will not welcome Trump’s deputy in Palestinian territory,” Rajoub said. “[Pence] requested to meet with [Abbas] on December 19 in Bethlehem. A meeting like this won’t happen.”
Responding to rumors the meeting could be called off, a White House aide said Pence “still plans to meet with Abbas as scheduled” and “believes it would be counterproductive for him to pull out of the meeting.”
Abbas has not made similar comments and his office could not immediately be reached.
Following Trump’s speech, in which the US president recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ordered the State Department to begin preparations for moving the US embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, Abbas slammed the move and said the United States has ended its historic role as the key sponsor for Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
On Thursday, Abbas traveled to Amman to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in order to coordinate a response to Trump’s decision. Fatah has called for protests against the move, while the Hamas terror group has called for a violent uprising, or intifada. Multiple Palestinians were injured in riots throughout the West Bank and at the Gaza border Thursday.
Mohammad Shtayeh, a senior Fatah official, said Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital did not leave any room for the boundaries of the city to be negotiated in the future.
“If the president kept the door open for negotiations on the borders of Jerusalem, he could have said the Palestinians have the right to a capital in East Jerusalem,” he said Thursday at a press conference in Beit Jala, a town near Bethlehem in the West Bank.
“The Jerusalem defined by the Americans is the Jerusalem defined by Netanyahu,” he added, meaning the entire municipal boundary as currently defined by Israel, which includes both West and East Jerusalem.
Shtayeh, who has been a senior member of the Palestinian negotiating team since the early 1990s, explained, “When we refer to Jerusalem, we refer to Jerusalem that was there before 1967.”
Jerusalem’s status is one of thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians envision East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, as the capital of their future state, while Israel has long declared all of Jerusalem its undivided capital.
As part of their response to Trump’s announcement, the Palestinians on Thursday asked the UN Security Council to take urgent action and demand that the US president’s decision be rescinded.
Palestinian Charge d’Affaires Feda Abdelhady-Nasser said in a letter to the council president that Trump’s declaration violates numerous council resolutions and could lead to “a never-ending religious war.”
The letter cited several council resolutions that prohibit changes to the status of Jerusalem.
Abdelhady-Nasser urged the Security Council to send “a clear message” reaffirming relevant laws and resolutions and “opposing this unilateral and provocative decision.”
She warned that disregarding “these fundamental legal, political and religious dimensions of the question of Jerusalem can only aggravate already heightened tensions.”
Trump’s decision could lead to the “exacerbation of religious sensitivities that risk transforming this solvable political-territorial conflict into a never-ending religious war, which will only be exploited by religious extremists, fueling radicalism and strife in the region and beyond,” Abdelhady-Nasser cautioned.
The Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting on Trump’s announcement for Friday.
Agencies contributed to this report.