Erekat: Trump team also wants to 'liquidate' refugee issue

Top Palestinian negotiator accuses Kushner, Greenblatt of seeking to topple PA

As American peace team holds talks in Israel and is boycotted by Abbas, his aide Saeb Erekat claims US wants to separate West Bank from Gaza, ‘terminate’ UNRWA

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat in his Ramallah office, November 23, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat in his Ramallah office, November 23, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Saturday accused the US peace team of working to topple the Palestinian Authority, as the American envoys wrapped up a visit to the region aimed to push the Trump administration’s peace plan and enlist humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip.

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, along with Jason Greenblatt, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday following meetings earlier in the week with the leaders of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt. They are expected to meet again with Netanyahu Saturday evening before returning to the US.

Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority is refusing to meet with the team, having boycotted the Trump administration since December.

Erekat claimed that, during the meeting with Kushner and Greenblatt, Netanyahu said he was prepared to help address the humanitarian situation in Gaza with the tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the PA.

“The goal behind this is to sustain the coup [by which Hamas seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007] and keep Gaza separated from the West Bank on the way to creating a mini-state in Gaza while bringing down the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank,” Erekat told Voice of Palestine radio, according to the PA’s official Wafa news agency.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd from right) meets at his Jerusalem office with the ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (right); White House adviser Jared Kushner (center); US Ambassador David Friedman (second left); and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, on June 22, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Erekat alleged the US is working to remove Abbas and overthrow the PA, pointing to an article by Greenblatt earlier this month calling for Erekat’s ouster. Greenblatt accused Erekat of exacerbating the conflict and impeding progress toward peace after the latter attacked Washington over its peacemaking role.

“In order to target the leadership, the US administration starts by creating a state of destabilization and confusion in the West Bank and at the same time works on undercutting international consensus on rejecting the so-called deal of the century and American conspiracies and support for the Palestinian cause,” Erekat said.

He also said Kushner and Greenblatt are seeking the “termination” of the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, in the wake of their alleged belief Jerusalem is no longer an issue after Trump recognized the city as Israel’s capital.

“They want to terminate the role of UNRWA by proposing direct aid to the countries hosting the Palestinian refugees and sideline the UN agency,” Erekat said. “On top of this, they are planning financial aid to the Gaza Strip worth one billion dollars for projects, also separate from UNRWA and under the title of solving a humanitarian crisis.”

He added: “All this is actually aimed at liquidating the issue of the Palestinian refugees.”

The US earlier this year cut some $250 billion to the budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA.

A Palestinian woman sits with a child after receiving food supplies from the United Nations’ offices at the United Nations’ offices in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, February 11, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Israel has often criticized UNRWA, accusing it of sheltering terrorists and allowing Palestinians to remain refugees even after settling in a new city or country for many generations, thus complicating a possible resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It also accuses UNRWA of helping to perpetuate the Palestinian narrative of Israel’s illegitimacy by uniquely granting refugee status to the descendants of refugees, even when they are born in other countries and have citizenship there, conditions that do not apply to the refugees cared for by the UN’s main refugee agency, UNHCR, which cares for all other refugees worldwide. The population of Palestinian refugees thus grows each year, even as other refugee populations in the world shrink with each passing generation.

Separately, Abbas’ spokesman said Saturday that the alleged efforts by the US to undercut the PA would not bear fruit.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. (Flash90)

“The American delegation should abandon the illusion that creating false facts and falsifying history are going to help it sell those illusions,” Wafa quoted Nabil Abu Rudeineh as saying.

“The right address for achieving a just and lasting peace that cannot be bypassed, neither regionally nor internationally, is the Palestinian decision-maker represented by President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership supported by the legitimate international community and the Arabs, who made this clear to the American delegation,” Abu Rudeineh added.

He also said the US should “stop pursuing imaginary political alternatives and projects aimed at splitting the Palestinian homeland to prevent the establishment of our Palestinian state.”

Kushner and Greenblatt did not meet with any Palestinian officials on their Middle East trip, with the PA boycotting the Trump administration since the Jerusalem recognition.

The decision greatly angered Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, though Trump stressed he was not taking a stance on the city’s borders, which he said must be agreed upon by the sides.

Most Popular
read more: