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World & Nation

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatens to cut security ties with Israel and U.S.

A placard shaped like a map of Israel and painted with the colors of the Palestinian flag and Arabic script.
At the barrier between an Israeli settlement and a West Bank village, a placard shaped like a map of Israel with the colors of the Palestinian flag and Arabic script that reads “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine.”
(Associated Press)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened Saturday to cut security ties with both Israel and the U.S. in a speech at an Arab League meeting in which he denounced the White House plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The U.S. plan would grant the Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the occupied West Bank, while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements there and keep nearly all of East Jerusalem.

The summit of Arab foreign ministers in Egypt’s capital Cairo was requested by the Palestinians, who responded angrily to the American proposal.

Abbas said he told Israel and the U.S. that “there will be no relations with them, including the security ties” following the deal that Palestinians say heavily favors Israel.

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The Western-backed Palestinian leadership has been under mounting pressure from ordinary Palestinians and its rivals in the Islamic militant group Hamas to cut off security ties with Israel and the U.S. or even dismantle the increasingly unpopular Palestinian Authority.

That would leave Israel responsible for the complicated and expensive task of providing basic services to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank.

The Palestinians have made such threats in the past, with few people taking them seriously. But this time might be different, especially if Israel proceeds with annexation of its West Bank settlements — which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as illegal — as well as the Jordan Valley, which accounts for roughly a fourth of the West Bank, according to the U.S. plan.

Abbas could also cut off agreements with U.S. intelligence agencies to combat extremism.

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There was no immediate comment from U.S. or Israeli officials on Abbas’ statement.

The Palestinian leader said he refused to take President Trump’s phone calls and messages “because I know that he would use that to say he consulted us.”

“I will never accept this solution,” Abbas said. “I will not have it recorded in my history that I have sold Jerusalem.”

He said the Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

Abbas received long applause from the Arab foreign ministers in attendance after his speech.

Abbas said the Palestinians wouldn’t accept the U.S. as a sole mediator in any negotiations with Israel. He said they would go to the United Nations Security Council and other world and regional organizations to “explain our position.”

The Arab League’s head, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, said the proposal revealed a “sharp turn” in the longstanding U.S. foreign policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This turn does not help achieve peace and a just solution,” he declared.

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Aboul-Gheit said that the Palestinians reject the proposal. He called for the two sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to negotiate to reach a “satisfactory solution for both of them.”

The Arab League’s final communique described the deal as “a new setback for the three-decade peace efforts.” It said Arab foreign ministers “reject the U.S., Israeli deal of the century because it did not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.”

It cited the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as an Arab-accepted settlement to the conflict. The initiative offers Israel normal ties with Arab states in return for Palestinian statehood on territory captured in 1967.

That plan starkly contradicts the White House’s blueprint.

Under the long-awaited proposal Trump unveiled Tuesday in Washington, in return for concessions in the West Bank and Jordan Valley, the Palestinians would be granted statehood in Gaza, scattered chunks of the West Bank and some neighborhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem, all linked together by a new network of roads, bridges and tunnels. Israel would control the state’s borders and airspace and maintain overall security authority. Critics of the plan say this would rob Palestinian statehood of any meaning.

The plan would abolish the right of return for Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 war and their descendants, a key Palestinian demand. The entire agreement would be contingent on Gaza’s Hamas rulers and other armed groups disarming, something they have always adamantly rejected.

Ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman attended the Tuesday unveiling in Washington in a tacit sign of support for the U.S. initiative.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt — Arab states that are close U.S. allies — said they appreciated Trump’s efforts and called for renewed negotiations without commenting on the plan’s content.

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Egypt urged in a statement for Israelis and Palestinians to “carefully study” the plan. It said it favors a solution that restores all the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinian people through establishing an “independent and sovereign state on the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The Egyptian statement did not mention the long-held Arab demand of East Jerusalem as a capital to the future Palestinian state, as Cairo usually does in its statements related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Jordan, meanwhile, warned against any Israeli “annexation of Palestinian lands” and reaffirmed its commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, which would include all the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries that have peace treaties with Israel.


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