American Jewish leaders on Wednesday harshly criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for sounding the “death knell” of peace efforts with Israel and denying the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations was responding to Abbas’s comments at an Islamic summit earlier in the day.
In a speech, Abbas said the Palestinians won’t accept any future role for the US in the peace process due to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and threatened to pull out of existing agreements with the Jewish state. He also suggested the UN should take over as mediator.
The Palestinian leader told an emergency meeting of Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul that there could be “no peace or stability” in the Middle East until Jerusalem is recognized as the capital of a Palestinian state. The OIC had gathered leaders from its more than 50 member states to form a unified response to Trump’s move on Jerusalem.
In a statement, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations chairman Stephen M. Greenberg and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein said Abbas’s speech was “as rejection of peace with Israel.”
“President Abbas has consistently openly promoted the denial of any Jewish connection to Jerusalem to his own people, in the UN and its agencies and bodies, and in international legal fora,” the statement said. “His threat to go to the United Nations to undo the US measure – which it cannot do – and to gain recognition of the State of Palestine is the death knell for negotiations. His speech today at the OIC summit in Istanbul is also the latest attack on foundational beliefs of the Jewish faith and historical truth.”
Abbas, the the US Jewish leaders said, “deliberately distorted” Trump’s recognition by ignoring the fact that the US president’s statement “did not define boundaries or borders, and that the US would support whatever the parties agree to” and instead “cast the move as an attack on Islam.”
The Jewish leaders said Abbas’s refusal to negotiate “in good faith” over the years was the reason a peace agreement has remained elusive. They said his speech made it clear he continues to have the same attitude.
“It is up to responsible leaders in the region and around the world to prevent President Abbas from proceeding toward a dangerous dead end,” the statement said.
The White House on Wednesday also panned Abbas’s comments against the US and its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying such rhetoric “has prevented peace for years.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Abbas by saying the Palestinians should “face the reality” that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
In an address last week from the White House, Trump insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.
The move was hailed by Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, but has continued to elicit rage in the Arab world.