Ahead of possible Israeli annexation, Abbas said to refuse call from Pompeo

PA threatens to gather weapons from security forces, hand them over to Israel if annexation goes ahead; CIA effort to get PA to talk to US reportedly fails

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters,  February 11, 2020. (Seth Wenig/AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, February 11, 2020. (Seth Wenig/AP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly refused a phone call this week from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and threatened to gather weapons from the PA security forces and turn them over to the IDF if Israel moves forward with its plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

The Kann public broadcaster reported Saturday that CIA representatives met this week in Ramallah with Palestinian officials in a bid to convince them to open a dialogue with the White House about US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, but these efforts were unsuccessful. Sometime over this past week, Pompeo phoned Abbas but he refused to receive the call, according to the report

The Ramallah-based PA has boycotted the Trump administration since the US president recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and has rejected his peace plan which designates some 30 percent of the West Bank for Israel and the rest for a prospective Palestinian state.

Kann also says the PA told US and European officials it’s planning to gather weapons from its security forces and turn them over to the Israeli military in a bid to force Israel to take over security is PA-controlled areas. Palestinians officials cited by the broadcaster describe such a move as a “judgement day weapon.”

Members of the Palestinian Authority security forces patrolling in the village of Beitunia in the central West Bank on April 6, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)

“We’ll bring the weapons and ammunition in trucks to the headquarters at Beit El if there’s annexation. We’ve already prepared lists of all the weapons. Israel will be responsible for security in the [West] Bank,” the Palestinian officials are quoted as saying.

The threat is being taken seriously, according to the report.

The officials also said the Palestinian Liberation Organization could declare the disbandment of the PA.

On Friday, Channel 12 reported that Israel has conveyed a message to Abbas that its annexation plans have been greatly reduced, will no longer apply to the Jordan Valley and will be limited to only two or three settlements blocs, citing a senior official in Ramallah.

The official told the network the message was delivered via Jordan, following Mossad chief Yossi Cohen’s reported meeting on the matter with King Abdullah this week.

Jordan’s King Abdullah delivers his speech at the European parliament, in Strasbourg, eastern France, January 15, 2020. (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

The official said no specific details were given on the settlements to be annexed, but said the implication was it would be a small number of blocs. There are three main settlement blocs — Ma’ale Adumim (to the east of Jerusalem), the Etzion Bloc (to the capital’s south) and Ariel (in the heart of the West Bank, southwest of Nablus) — all of which Israel has long indicated it would seek to retain under any negotiated accord with the Palestinians.

The Channel 12 story echoed a radio report earlier this week, according to which Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi has said that Israel is unlikely to annex the Jordan Valley under the Trump administration’s peace plan.

It also was in line with comments earlier this month by top Israeli officials to Zman Yisrael, the Hebrew sister site of The Times of Israel, that Israel will at this stage only annex three West Bank blocs, but not the Jordan Valley or other settlement areas.

TV news reports Tuesday night had said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping to get White House approval for a first phase of annexation that would include not only one or more of the major settlement blocs such as Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel or the Etzion Bloc, but also one or more relatively “isolated” settlements, deeper in the West Bank, to “convey the message” that those more isolated settlements would also not become part of a future Palestinian entity. A potential second phase of annexation would be more extensive — in line with Netanyahu’s pledge to extend Israeli law to all 132 settlements and the Jordan Valley.

A picture taken from the controversial E1 corridor in the West Bank shows the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the background, Feb. 25, 2020. (Ahamd Gharabli/AFP)

A Thursday report on Channel 12 said security chiefs were deeply divided on the possible ramifications of annexation, with the chiefs of the military and Mossad at odds on whether the move will be met with significant Palestinian violence or not.

As Netanyahu’s intended target date of July 1 to begin annexation approaches, there has been rising international pressure on Israel to abandon the plan.

It’s unclear if Israel will move ahead with any annexation on July 1, since the United States is still considering its approval for the plan. Three days of White House discussions on the matter this week concluded without any final decision being made. Trump peace envoy Avi Berkowitz arrived in Israel on Friday to discuss the issue with Israeli leaders.

Blue and White’s Benny Gantz and Ashkenazi — the defense and foreign ministers — have also given the US administration pause by their reluctance to back the Netanyahu unilateral annexation plan. The two have said they will not support annexation that hurts Israel’s relations with its neighbors, particularly Jordan.

The United Nations and European and Arab powers on Wednesday warned Israel that its plans to annex Palestinian land would deal a major blow to peace.

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