Erekat says US is pushing a Palestinian ‘coup,’ tells Nikki Haley to ‘shut up’
Top PLO official rails against the Trump administration for criticisms of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, but insists Palestinians are not looking for confrontation with US
Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat on Saturday accused the Trump administration of trying depose the Palestinian leadership in a “coup” and told the “impudent” US envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley she should “shut up” with her criticism of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Erekat, who has led the Palestinian peace negotiations and is secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, singled out Haley, who slammed Abbas for a recent speech that was full of anti-Semitic tropes.
Erekat said that Haley’s “impudence” has gone as far as calling for removing Abbas from power.
“She called for overthrowing the democratically elected Palestinian president,” Erekat complained in an interview with the Palestinian Al-Watan Voice news website.
“This is the president who led the peace process and promoted the principle of the two-state solution,” Erekat said, referring to Abbas. “Now this [US] ambassador is accusing him of lacking courage, and is calling for replacing him.”
Only the Palestinian people have that right, he said. “The Palestinian people are loyal to their martyrs, prisoners, wounded, struggles, steadfastness, and heroism. This is the reality. The Palestinians are the only ones who are entitled to hold their leaders accountable.”
Erekat was reacting to a speech given by Haley to the UN on January 25.
“President Abbas declared the landmark Oslo Peace Accords dead. He rejected any American role in peace talks. He insulted the American President. He called for suspending recognition of Israel. He invoked an ugly and fictional past, reaching back to the 17th century to paint Israel as a colonialist project engineered by European powers,” Haley said.
“A speech that indulges in outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories is not the speech of a person with the courage and the will to seek peace,” she said.
“I ask here today, where is the Palestinian King Hussein? Where is the Palestinian Anwar Sadat,” she said, referring to the Jordanian and Egyptian leaders who made peace with Israel. “If President Abbas demonstrates he can be that type of leader, we would welcome it. His recent actions demonstrate the total opposite.”
Erekat insisted that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, together with Haley’s remarks, amounted to an attempt to stage a “coup” against the “Palestinian political system.”
“Nikki Haley needs to shut up and realize that the Palestinian leadership is not the problem,” the top PLO official added. “Instead, the problem is the Israeli occupation and the policies it continues to pursue. I’m not saying that we don’t make mistakes; every society and every government makes mistakes.”
Erekat said the goal of Israel and the US was to “undermine the Palestinian national project.”
“US and Israeli officials are saying that any Palestinian leader who insists on East Jerusalem becoming the capital of Palestine and is committed to the right of return, in accordance with United Nations resolution 194, should be removed from power and replaced,” he said.
The US and Israel are searching for Palestinian leaders who will accept the “liquidation of the Palestinian national project,” Erekat said.
“The Palestinian leadership has told the Americans and Israelis that, even after 1,000 years, they will not find any Palestinian who will collaborate with their scheme,” Erekat said.
The Palestinians, Erekat stressed, are determined to pursue diplomatic efforts at the UN Security Council and other international forums in response to the policies of the Trump administration.
“We will take Trump’s decision [to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel] to the International Court of Justice and we will seek membership in more international agencies,” he said.
In the wake of the recognition, formally declared by President Donald Trump on December 6, the Palestinians have said the US cannot be an honest broker in the peace talks and have refused to meet with US officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the region last month.
Nevertheless, Erekat insisted that the Palestinians were not looking for a fight with the US.
“We don’t seek a confrontation or a fight with the US administration,” Erekat said. “On the contrary — they are the ones taking several steps. The US administration is itself saying that it’s not an honest broker in the peace process. Therefore, we are seeking, together with international parties, to convene an international conference for peace.”