Dismisses US demand to stop paying salaries to terrorists

Bitter Abbas to Trump: We reject your peace ‘deal of the century’

PA president categorically dismisses US president’s proposal before it has even been presented, says only ‘international’ mediation acceptable

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018.  (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday said a peace plan being worked on by US President Donald Trump insulted the Palestinians, calling it a slap in the face, and said the Palestinians would not accept any part of it.

“We told Trump we will not accept his project, the ‘deal of the century,’ which has become the ‘slap of the century,’” said Abbas, expressing Palestinian anger over the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “But we will slap back.”

“We do not take instructions from anyone, and say ‘no’ to anyone if it is about our destiny, our cause, our country and our people… 1,000 times no,'” he said, opening a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council in Ramallah.

The meeting, the first in two years, was called to discuss the Palestinian reaction to Trump’s December 6 speech recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in which the US president said his decision merely recognized the reality that Jerusalem already serves as Israel’s capital and was not meant to prejudge the final borders of the city.

“Jerusalem is Mecca. Jerusalem is Mecca,” Abbas declared, comparing Jerusalem to Islam’s holiest site.

Abbas, who will turn 83 in March, told his audience this might be the last time they see him at this forum.

After the Trump declaration, Abbas declared that the US could no longer serve as a peacebroker, and instituted a boycott of the Trump administration, canceling a planned meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence and refusing to meet with US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a press conference with the French president, following a meeting at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on December 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Francois Mori)

Trump’s move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, while enraging Palestinians and prompting condemnations worldwide.

“We will not accept America as a sole mediator between us and Israel, after what they have done,” said Abbas on Sunday, adding he would accept only “serious international sponsorship” for peace talks.

His speech featured bitter criticisms of the US president. In reference to tweets by the US president on January 2, Abbas said, according to a Hadashot TV news translation, that Trump “posted a tweet that said, We’re not going to give the Palestinians financial aid, because they are refusing to negotiate.” He added: “Shame on you. When did we reject the talks? Where is the negotiation that we rejected?”

“May God demolish your house,” he said of Trump.

Abbas also slammed two outspoken US officials, Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

He said he refused offers to meet with Friedman, and slammed the US ambassador for saying there is no such as thing as the “occupation” of Palestine.

American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attends a meeting of the lobby for Israel–United States relations at the Knesset, July 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Abbas also laughed at Haley for saying she was protecting Israel in high heels.

“These two personalities are an insult for a self-respecting administration,” Abbas said about Haley and Friedman.

Abbas also said that Israel had “ended” the landmark Oslo peace accords of the 1990s with its actions.

“I am saying that Oslo, there is no Oslo,” he said at the start of the meeting. “Israel ended Oslo,” Abbas said, adding that the Central Council meeting must take decisions on how to move forward.

“We are an authority without any power and under an occupation without any cost. We will not accept it remaining like this,” he said.

Abbas had long defended the need to preserve the Oslo Accords, arguing it allowed for the return of Palestinian leaders in exile and the creation of the Palestinian Authority.

At the same time, Abbas has also threatened a number of times to walk away from the agreements signed during Oslo.

While Abbas did not offer a specific plan for a new way forward, he did call for “popular and peaceful resistance.”

Such “resistance,” which he called “stronger and more effective than any other,” he said, “is our path to force out the occupation from our land.”

Slamming Abbas for failing to present a specific plan, a Hamas spokesman said the speech proved the PA president was “not serious” about tackling “the big national issues” facing the Palestinians.

Abbas also said he “completely rejects” any attempt to change Ramallah’s policy of paying salaries to Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails and to the families of terrorists who died killing Israelis.

The US Congress recently passed legislation that would see a vast portion of US financial aid to the Palestinians frozen until the payments to terrorists’s families cease.

Abbas, in his speech on Sunday, also seemingly confirmed that US officials offered Palestinians the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis as the capital of a future Palestinian state, rather than their sought-after East Jerusalem capital.

Abbas said Abu Dis was “being offered,” though he did not specify that it was by the Americans.

“You want to make a state? With Abu Dis as its capital Abu Alaa. That’s what they are offering us now. Abu Dis,” Abbas said. Abu Alaa is a nickname of Ahmed Qurei, a former senior Palestinian negotiator.

In December, a number of reports said that when Abbas had visited Saudi Arabia in September, the Saudis informed him of the outlines of a peace plan being drawn up by the Trump administration.

Among the elements of the Saudi proposal outlined in the reports was the establishment of the capital of a future Palestinian state in Abu Dis, a suburb of Jerusalem in the West Bank, east of Israel’s security barrier.

Abu Dis (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In early peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in the ’90s, the idea of Abu Dis as a Palestinian capital was floated, though it was ultimately rejected.

In 1995, the PA began building its parliament in Abu Dis, but eventually eschewed the massive complex for a location in Ramallah.

The PCC meeting, which is set to finish on Monday night, is meant to chart a new course for the Palestinian national movement.

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