Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday slammed US President Donald Trump for his policies toward the Palestinians, calling them an “assault on international law,” and rejected Washington as a mediator of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Abbas also hailed terror convicts in Israeli prisons as “heroes,” and signaled he could cut PA budgets to Gaza if Hamas does not relinquish power.
The US is “too biased towards Israel” in order to act alone as a fair mediator between the Palestinians and Israel, Abbas said, but indicated he could be open to others stepping in to broker talks and said the US could play a role as a member of the Middle East peace Quartet.
“This administration has reneged on all previous US commitments, and has undermined the two-state solution, and has revealed its false claims of concern about the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people,” Abbas charged.
“We welcomed Trump when he was elected and praised his announcement of [a] peace plan, but were shocked by his actions concerning the process,” Abbas said in New York.
Trump, he continued, “decided to close the Palestinian mission in Washington, then recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, and even boasts that he took the issues of Jerusalem and refugees off the table.”
“He even intensified his assault on international law by cutting humanitarian aid to refugees and funds to the Palestinian Authority,” Abbas charged.
Abbas’s speech came amid a deepening rift between Ramallah and Washington due to the PA’s refusal to engage with American officials after the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.
Relations plummeted further in recent weeks after Washington cut off all funding to the UN agency assisting Palestinians, triggering a budget panic, and shuttered the Palestinian mission in Washington.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to address the UN General Assembly after Abbas, a day after US President Donald Trump pledged to present a “very fair” Israeli-Palestinian peace plan in the coming months.
Netanyahu is expected to focus primarily on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its military entrenchment in Syria, as well as efforts to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.
Abbas called on Trump to rescind his decisions in order “to salvage the prospects of peace and prosperity for future generations.”
The Palestinians have said a pending US peace plan will be dead on arrival because of the series of US moves that Palestinians see as favoring Israel.
“Jerusalem is not for sale,” Abbas said to applause as he began his speech. “The Palestinian people’s rights are not up for bargaining.”
He added that he rejected anything short of all of East Jerusalem, including the Old City with all its holy places, as the capital of a Palestinian state, and not just a neighborhood, as the Americans reportedly plan on proposing.
He said Palestinians had never rejected and would never reject negotiations, but added that “it’s really ironic that the American administration still talks about what they talk call the ‘deal of the century.'”
With issues such as Jerusalem and the refugees ostensibly off the table, “What is left for this administration to give to the Palestinian people?” he asked. “What is left as a political solution?”
Abbas claimed that there are now 13 million Palestinians worldwide, 6 million of them refugees — and derided what he said was the US claim that there are only 40,000 refugees. “We are not redundant,” he railed. “Why are we treated as redundant people who should be gotten rid of?”
Abbas also claimed Israel’s recently passed nation-state law was racist and illegal, and set Israel on the path to becoming an “apartheid state.” He claimed falsely that it entailed stripping non-Jewish Israelis of their citizenship. The law, he said, “will inevitably lead to the creation of one racist state, an apartheid state, and thus nullifies the two-state solution.”
Claiming the Palestinians “never use violence,” he added that “we are resisting the Israeli occupation by legitimate means decided by international resolutions. Only peaceful means. We never use violence.”
“By contrast, settlers use arms against our people. We will continue to reject violence and use of weapons,” he said.
But he ended his speech by paying tribute to “our hero martyrs and prisoners of war,” while accusing Israelis of supporting terrorists.
The US and Israel have both cut funding to the Palestinians over controversial stipends paid to terror convicts and their families.
Abbas also suggested the Palestinians would cut all PA budgets allocated to Gaza if Hamas does not hand over control of the the coastal territory.
“There is an agreement between Hamas and us. We abided by it and our Egyptian brothers know that, but they have not abided by it. Therefore, from now on, we will not bear any responsibility [for Gaza]. I ask you to understand that. We will not bear any responsibility if they insist on rejecting agreements,” he said, referring to an Egyptian-brokered agreement Hamas and Fatah signed late last year.
In October 2017, Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement to bring the West Bank and Gaza under the PA’s authority. However the rival parties have failed to implement it. Cutting the budget is seen as an extreme move that could worsen the Strip’s already dire humanitarian situation and deepen a rift between the rival groups.
Referring to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Abbas claimed that Israel’s Supreme Court “plans to pass a decision dividing Al Aqsa by time and space.”
“Every day that court passes decisions as if we don’t exist,” he said.
It was not immediately clear what decision he was referring to. Palestinians have long claimed that Jews entering the contested holy site are supported by the government in an effort to take over the compound — a charge Israel firmly denies.
Sources close to Abbas told Israel’s Channel 10 news said the Palestinian leader had softened his message and used the least aggressive speech of the various versions which had been prepared for him.
On Wednesday, foreign ministers and diplomats from some 40 countries and representatives of international organizations evening attended a conference organized by the Palestinian mission to the United Nations in a bid to promote alternatives to the US administration’s expected peace plan.
Participating dignitaries endorsed the two-state solution and “reiterated the parameters [of the peace process] as we know them, and as agreed upon by everyone, and expressed willingness to allow this collective process to continue,” Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour said.
Abbas arrived in New York on Monday and met with European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who reiterated the bloc’s support for a two-state solution.
Mogherini and EU commissioner Johannes Hahn are set Thursday to host a ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly on UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency recently defunded by the Trump administration.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump for the first time declared his support for a two-state solution to the conflict following his meeting with Netanyahu on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
Trump told reporters that he believes that two states — Israel and one for the Palestinians — “works best.” He has previously been vague on the topic, suggesting that he would support whatever the parties might agree to, including possibly a one-state resolution, which might see the Palestinian territories become part of Israel.
“I like [a] two-state solution,” Trump said as he posed for photographs with Netanyahu. “That’s what I think works best… That’s my feeling. Now, you may have a different feeling. I don’t think so. But I think two-state solution works best.”
Later, Trump told a news conference that reaching a two-state solution is “more difficult because it’s a real estate deal” but that ultimately it “works better because you have people governing themselves.”
But, backtracking a little, Trump added that he would still support Israel and the Palestinians should they opt for a one-state solution, though he believed that was less likely. “Bottom line: If the Israelis and Palestinians want one-state, that’s OK with me. If they want two states, that’s OK with me. I’m happy if they’re happy.”
In his earlier comments, Trump said his much-anticipated but still unreleased Mideast peace plan could be presented in the next two to four months, but was not specific as to timing.
Trump’s explicit support for two states was not cheered by either side.
The Palestinians said it flew in the face of his administration’s actions over the past year, while Netanyahu told Israeli journalists he would never relinquish security control over the West Bank and that the US accepts this.
Adam Rasgon and agencies contributed to this report.