Senior PA official denies Saudis gave Abbas ultimatum on US peace plan

Palestinian leader was reportedly told by Riyadh to accept American proposal when it comes, or resign

Dov Lieber is a former Times of Israel Arab affairs correspondent.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) meets with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on November 7, 2017. (Thaer Ghanaim/Wafa)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) meets with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on November 7, 2017. (Thaer Ghanaim/Wafa)

A senior Palestinian official on Monday denied a report that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been told by Saudi Arabia to either accept an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal being put together by the Trump administration or resign from office.

Asked directly about the alleged ultimatum reported by Israel’s Channel 10 News on Sunday, Ahmad Majdalani, a confidant of Abbas, told The Times of Israel, “The Channel 10 report is fabricated, false and untrue.”

A week ago Abbas was unexpectedly called to Riyadh by the office of the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, and held a meeting both with the heir to the throne and a separate meeting with Saudi King Salman.

Channel 10 reported the Saudis told Abbas to “accept Trump’s peace plan [when it is presented] or quit.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on November 7, 2017. (Thaer Ghanaim / Wafa)

A second senior Palestinian official, who was part of the delegation in Riyadh, told The Times of Israel on Monday that the meetings were “excellent and warm,” and that the two sides “exchanged views on the latest American administration’s efforts on peacemaking.”

When asked about the reported Saudi ultimatum to Abbas regarding a future US peace plan, this official simply responded, “There is no US proposed peace plan available yet.”

The Channel 10 report also said Abbas was ordered to keep away from any Iranian influence.

The Saudi authorities, according to the TV report, made clear that they were dismayed by media images of Hamas’s deputy political leader, Saleh al-Arouri, visiting Tehran in October. Arouri, a Hamas terror chief, was the Hamas signatory on a reconciliation deal with Abbas’s Fatah group signed in Cairo last month.

However, the PA official who was in the talks said Monday that the issue of Hamas’s relationship with Iran and the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah “were not discussed” with the Saudi leaders.

This official did say, however, that the Saudis “fully supported” Abbas’s positions regarding the peace process, as well as the PA leader’s stance on Palestinian reconciliation.

Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri (2nd-R) meets with Iranian official Hossein Amir Abdollahian (R) and other Hamas operatives in Lebanon on August 1, 2017. (Official Hamas media)

Under the deal it signed with the Hamas terror group, Fatah, which controls the PA, will retake governmental control of the Gaza Strip.

Abbas is demanding full security control in the coastal enclave, but Hamas says it wants to retain control of its weapons. Iran has said it will continue to back Hamas’s military.

Sunni Saudi Arabia has been flexing its muscles opposite Shiite Iran.

Last week, Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri turned up in Riyadh, appearing on Saudi TV to announce his resignation and prompting rumors that he was being held against his will.

On Sunday night, Hariri gave his first TV interview, attacking Iran and its Hezbollah proxy, and claiming that he would return to Lebanon in the coming days to formally submit his resignation to Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

The New York Times on Saturday reported the Trump administration has begun drafting an Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal based on a two-state solution.

A senior White House adviser said the plan would attempt to tackle controversial issues such as the status of Jerusalem and West Bank settlements.

Sue Surkes contributed to this report.

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