Palestinian leaders vote to urge PLO to suspend recognition of Israel
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Council also calls for end to Israel security coordination

Palestinian leaders vote to urge PLO to suspend recognition of Israel

Final decision likely to rest with Abbas; if implemented, move would apply until Israel 'recognizes state of Palestine,' cancels annexation of East Jerusalem, stops settlements

Senior Palestinian official Salim Zaanoun reads a statement at the end of a meeting of the Palestinian Central Council in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 16, 2018. Palestinian leaders voted today to call for the suspension of recognition of Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)
Senior Palestinian official Salim Zaanoun reads a statement at the end of a meeting of the Palestinian Central Council in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 16, 2018. Palestinian leaders voted today to call for the suspension of recognition of Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

RAMALLAH  — Palestinian leaders voted on Monday to call for the suspension of recognition of Israel, and to suspend security coordination with Israel, as they met in response to US President Donald Trump’s acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The vote ordered the Palestine Liberation Organisation to suspend its recognition of the Jewish state until Israel “recognizes the state of Palestine,” cancels its annexation of East Jerusalem, and stops settlement activity, a statement said.

It was unclear if the vote by the Palestinian Central Council, a high-ranking arm of the PLO, was binding, and a final decision is likely to rest with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. A previous vote by the council in 2015 to suspend security coordination with Israel was never implemented.

The vote was 74 in favour, two against, with 12 abstentions, according to an AFP journalist present.

On Sunday, Abbas denounced White House peace efforts as the “slap of the century.”

The rare meeting of the Palestinian Central Council — a high-ranking arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization — was called after Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinians want the city as the capital of their future state and Abbas has said Trump’s stance means the US can no longer be the mediator in peace talks with Israel.

The US president has sought to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, with talks stalled since 2014.

Speaking Sunday evening at the opening of the council, which brings together Palestinians from multiple political parties, Abbas told delegates: “We said ‘no’ to Trump, ‘we will not accept your project.'”

“The deal of the century is the slap of the century and we will not accept it,” the 82-year-old leader added, referring to Trump’s pledge to reach the “ultimate deal.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (3rd-L) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

He instead called for an internationally mediated peace process.

Israel is unlikely to accept any other mediator than the United States, accusing United Nations bodies of systematic bias against it.

The delegates began meeting Monday morning, with talks expected to end in the evening with a joint statement.

The last meeting of the PCC in 2015 called for the ending of security coordination with Israel, but its decisions were non-binding and it was never implemented.

Abbas, in his speech on Sunday, also issued a series of vicious attacks on Israel, asserting that the Jewish state was a “colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism.”

His comments met with widespread criticism in Israel — particularly the  perceived anti-Semitic comments, including denials of a Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. He went so far as to imply that European Jews during the Holocaust chose to undergo “murder and slaughter” rather than emigrate to British-held Palestine, and alleged that the State of Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion imported Jews from Yemen and Iraq to the country against their will.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas was serving Israel’s interests by lashing out against Washington and disregarding the Jewish connection to Israel.

“He exposed what we have been saying all the time, that the root of the conflict is the basic refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any borders,” Netanyahu said from New Delhi, where he is on an official state visit, adding that the Palestinians would find no mediator to replace the Americans.

‘Israel ended Oslo’

The Palestinians’ relations with the US leadership have deteriorated rapidly since Trump’s election.

He came to power promising to lead the most pro-Israel administration in history, but also to pursue a peace deal.

His envoys, including senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, had been shuttling between the two sides in search of common ground.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men belonging to Neturei Karta, a small faction of anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jews who oppose Israel’s existence, attend a speech by Palestinian Authority President in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

But Trump also infuriated the Palestinians by refusing to commit to the idea of an independent Palestinian state and recently threatened to cut hundreds of millions of dollars of US aid.

The Jerusalem announcement prompted the Palestinians to freeze ties with the administration, and Abbas is expected to shun Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the region next week.

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)

On Sunday night, Abbas also attacked the US ambassadors to Israel and the United Nations, David Friedman and Nikki Haley, calling them a “disgrace.”

Both Trump appointees have been strong supporters of Israel, with Friedman having backed Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

An indignant Abbas also said that Trump had accused them of refusing peace negotiations.

“May God demolish your house. When did we refuse?” he said, using a common Arabic curse.

US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks to reporters at United Nations headquarters, January 2, 2018 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

Israeli media focused heavily on the phrase on Monday, while Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the statement showed Abbas was “losing his wits and giving up negotiations.”

Abbas said all options were on the table for responding to Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, but did not specifically mention suspending recognition of Israel or ending security coordination with the Jewish state — both policies mooted in the days before the council.

Bill Clinton looks on as Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shake hands during the signing of the Oslo Accords, September 13, 1993. On the far right, current Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: courtesy GPO)

He did, however, say the Oslo accords that led to the creation of his Palestinian Authority and envisioned a final resolution to the conflict were in effect finished.

“I am saying that Oslo, there is no Oslo. Israel ended Oslo,” he said, referring to Israeli settlement building and other issues seen as eroding the possibility of a two-state solution to the conflict.

Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, is not taking part in the council — arguing it should have been held abroad to avoid Israeli pressure.

In a statement Monday the party said Abbas’s speech “did not meet the ambitions of our people.”

“The central council must end Oslo and stop security coordination and withdraw the recognition (of Israel).”

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