Palestinians meet to respond to Trump’s ‘slap of the century’
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Palestinians meet to respond to Trump’s ‘slap of the century’

Rare meeting of the Palestinian Central Council expected to end in the evening with a joint statement

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) arrives for a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018.(AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) arrives for a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018.(AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

RAMALLAH (AFP) — Palestinian leaders met Monday to plan a response to what they see as US President Donald Trump’s attack on their long bid for statehood, after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 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.

‘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.”

In a speech during a state visit to India, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not mention Abbas’s comments.

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).”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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