Palestinian leaders to discuss Trump Jerusalem response
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Palestinian leaders to discuss Trump Jerusalem response

PLO to consider suspending recognition of Israel, review of Oslo agreement, after US president recognizes Israel's capital

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 4, 2016. (Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 4, 2016. (Flash90)

RAMALLAH (AFP) — Senior Palestinian leaders will meet in Ramallah on Sunday to debate responses to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Among the options to be considered is the potential suspension of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) recognition of Israel, delegates said.

Such a move could call into question a founding principle of the peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians and threaten decades of agreements with Israel, including on security.

Skepticism is widespread that the leadership will follow through with such an unpredictable step, but the fact that it is being discussed will be taken as a measure of the level of anger towards the Trump administration.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 18, 2017. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

The two-day meeting of the Palestinian Central Council will begin late Sunday, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expected to open with a brief address.

The 121-member council is a high-ranking arm of the PLO, the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people, and includes members of different parties.

Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has infuriated the Palestinian leadership, who see the city as the capital of a future state they have sought to gain through American-led negotiations.

Trump has 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.

When Trump declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, he insisted that the move would improve, not hurt, prospects for clinching a peace deal.

His administration has also not publicly committed to the idea of an independent Palestinian state, and the PLO office in Washington was briefly closed down.

Abbas has said after the recognition the Americans can no longer play a role as mediator, and is expected to shun Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence when he visits Israel on January 22-23.

Redefining the relationship

Ahmed Majdalani, a senior PLO official, told AFP that a committee created to formulate responses to Trump’s announcement would recommend redefining the Palestinian relationship with Israel.

Among the options, he said, was suspending recognition of Israel, accusing the Jewish state of failing to abide by agreements.

PLO official Ahmad Majdalani Ahmad Majdalani (Facebook page)

“It is not possible for the Palestinian side to remain the only one committed to the agreements signed while the other side (Israel) is not committed to them and has violated them for years,” Majdalani said.

Previous Palestinian threats to suspend security coordination or recognition of Israel have  not been carried out.

In 2015 the council voted to end security cooperation with Israel but it was not implemented, with the rulings not binding on Abbas.

The Palestinian leadership signed the Oslo Accords with Israel in 1993, formalizing its recognition of Israel.

The agreements were supposed to lead to a final settlement — what many envisioned as the creation of an independent Palestinian state — within five years, but they have long -ince broken down.

Majdalani said instead of US-mediated talks they would be looking for a conference led by the United Nations on the future of the peace process.

The agenda of Sunday’s talks includes a review of the situation since Oslo, as well as responses to Trump.

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

Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are not members of the PCC, have been invited, delegates said, but it was unclear if they would attend.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and does not recognize it.

Nour Odeh, a Palestinian political analyst, said the Palestinian leadership was seeking to change course.

But she said there were different camps among the leadership.

“One that sees that Trump has ushered in a completely different era and business as usual is no longer possible.

“The other camp is less convinced the world is ready to support us in a way that confronts this administration.

“The debate is about what can we do that won’t leave us alone with our backs against the wall.”

TOI Staff contributed to this report

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