Palestinian negotiator slams Pence’s ‘messianic’ Knesset speech
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Palestinian negotiator slams Pence’s ‘messianic’ Knesset speech

Saeb Erekat calls US's Jerusalem recognition a 'gift to extremists,' says America is 'part of the problem rather than the solution'

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)

The Palestinians on Monday harshly criticized US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset on Monday for its emphasis on Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which the PLO’s longtime negotiator said was a “gift to extremists.”

“The messianic discourse of Pence is a gift to extremists & has proven that the US Administration is part of the problem rather than the solution. His message to the rest of the world is clear: violate international law & resolutions and the US will reward you,” tweeted Saeb Erekat.

US Vice President Mike Pence addresses the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 22, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ariel Schalit)

Earlier Monday, Palestinian Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi said it was “ludicrous” that Pence’s visit would help boost peace efforts.

“The Americans cannot talk about the peace process after they have undermined it following [Trump’s] recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” she said, according to the PA’s official Wafa news agency.

Palestinians demonstrate against US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Israel in the West Bank city of Nablus on January 22, 2018. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

In protest at Pence’s visit, Palestinians demonstrated in the West Bank city of Nablus on Monday, with one protester holding a sign portraying the vice president as the dog of the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

A small group of Palestinians also torched Pence’s photo in Bethlehem on Sunday evening upon the vice president’s arrival in Israel.

Since US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, ties between the US and the Palestinians have sharply declined, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas saying shortly after the US was no longer an honest broker in peace talks.

Abbas has continued to ramp up his rhetoric against the US since then, cursing Trump in a speech earlier this month in which he called a peace deal being formulated by the White House the “slap of the century.”

Palestinian protesters holds posters of US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as they protest Pence’s visit to Israel, in the West Bank city of Nablus, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammedl)

According to a Channel 10 report Friday, Abbas was reacting to an outline by Erekat of the US peace plan that included a number of measures previously rejected by the Palestinians. Erekat is said to have urged Abbas to reject the plan outright.

The TV report seemed to correspond with a Hadashot news report last week, which said an associate of the PA leader had traveled to Saudi Arabia to receive details of Trump’s peace plan

The plan reportedly calls for overall security responsibility for the West Bank to remain with Israel, with an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley and in key West Bank vantage points. The Palestinian state would be demilitarized albeit with a strong police force, and the Jewish state would maintain ultimate military control.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas pose for a photograph during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

It would also see the establishment of a Palestinian capital in the suburbs of Jerusalem, with Israel maintaining freedom of worship for all religions at Jerusalem holy sites under its control.

Although it was not clear what “suburbs” would entail, a New York Times report last month said the proposal spoke of a Palestinian capital in Abu Dis, a West Bank town on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians seek East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, as the capital of their future state. Israel claims the entire city as its “united” capital.

Pence’s speech came as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was in Brussels to urge European Union member states to recognize a Palestinian state.

While in the region, Pence will not meet with Abbas or other PA officials, who have refused to meet with Trump administration officials regarding the peace process since Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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