Erekat: No peace talks until US revokes Jerusalem recognition
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Erekat: No peace talks until US revokes Jerusalem recognition

Palestinian negotiator says Washington’s position is ‘unacceptable’; top Abbas aide says US VP Mike Pence is still unwelcome in Ramallah

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

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Saeb Erekat on Tuesday said the Palestinians would reject all United States-sponsored peace talks until Washington rescinded its December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“The continued American talk about deals to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or calling for negotiations or talks is unacceptable to the Palestinian leadership, as long as Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not revoked,” Erekat told the official Voice of Palestine radio station, according to the official PA news site Wafa.

When US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he “removed Jerusalem from any negotiations,” said Erekat.

Tensions between the US and Palestinians flared after Trump’s December 6 announcement, with the Palestinian leadership declaring that it would no longer accept Washington as a peace broker.

Following the US president’s declaration, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the US had relinquished its traditional role as the mediator of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. He has also refused to meet with American officials on the peace process.

Donald Trump waving to reporters, as Vice President Mike Pence looks on, after announcing that the US government will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, Dec. 6, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via JTA)

In his December 6 speech, Trump said his decision merely recognized the reality that Jerusalem already serves as Israel’s capital and wasn’t meant to prejudge the final borders of the city. He called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites. The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum.

In a series of tweets published on January 3, however, the US leader said he had taken Jerusalem “off the table.”

“They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel,” Trump said of the Palestinians. “We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more,” Trump wrote, without elaborating on the planned Israeli concessions.

Washington was paying the Palestinian Authority hundreds of millions of dollars a year “for nothing,” Trump added on Twitter, complaining that the US received “no appreciation or respect” in return.

“But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace,” the US president went on, “why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

In his comments on Tuesday, Erekat emphasized the importance of Jerusalem to the Palestinians, saying, “There is no Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital.”

Erekat also accused the US of imposing “dictates” on the Palestinian leadership by threatening to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.

Abbas’s top foreign affairs adviser, Nabil Shaath, said on Tuesday in a press statement that the PA would still refuse to welcome US Vice President Mike Pence, who will visit the region later this month, to Ramallah.

US Vice President Mike Pence walks outside the Senate chamber at the US Capitol on January 3, 2018. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

“Our position has not changed up to this moment, and it will not change as long as the behavior of the US administration continues to be biased in favor of Israel,” Shaath said, in statements published by the Palestinian news site al-Watan Voice.

Pence postponed his visit to Israel and Egypt in mid-December due to a Senate vote on Trump’s tax overhaul.

The White House announced Monday that Pence will travel to the region January 19-23, starting with a meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Pence will also confer with King Abdullah II of Jordan and then hold two days of meetings and events in Israel.

Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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