The Palestinian leader’s remarks rejecting Israeli statehood and refusing US involvement in the peace process are taking Mahmoud Abbas on a collision course with Washington.
By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas may have finally gone too far. His speech at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) used words that managed to even force the extreme liberal J Street Mideast policy group to issue a rare condemnation of Abbas’ speech as “divisive and inflammatory.”
Speaking in Arabic, Abbas told the gathering that the Palestinians would no longer work with the US and threatened that he does not feel bound by commitments agreed to in Oslo and subsequent rounds of peace talks. While demanding that the US must roll back its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Abbas threatened, “If there is no Palestinian state along the June 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, there will not be peace in the region, in the territories or in the world.”
J Street said it “rejected” Abbas’ rhetoric and insisted that the Palestinians need the US to advance its agenda. J Street released a statement reading: “The US can and must play a vital and productive role in facilitating negotiations toward a comprehensive two-state solution…The harmful actions of President Trump can be overturned by future administrations and leaders who understand the value of serious diplomacy and the urgent necessity of resolving this conflict.”
More predictably, the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC said Abbas’s speech set a “dangerous new course” which would “set back the cause of peace.” AIPAC’s statement announced,“Rather than threatening Israel and America, Abbas should end extreme statements and condemn incitement to violence. Israel is ready for direct talks and the Palestinians should join Israel at the table.”
Abbas’ remarks: a ‘game changer’?
Dan Diker, a Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, called Abbas’ remarks a clear game changer. Diker told World Israel News (WIN), “At the OIC, Abbas joined the radical Islamic anti-peace, anti-American alliance led by Turkish President Erdogan and turned his back on the pro-peace alliance led by the United States, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”
In his remarks, Abbas went as far as to charge that Israel does not qualify for statehood at all. He accused the Jewish people of falsifying history and religion and claimed that Israel does not meet the criteria for statehood, calling on the world to withdraw recognition. He also vowed to seek full membership for the “State of Palestine” at the United Nations.
Abbas reasoned, “International law says that the state must meet three conditions: authority [i.e., government], population and borders. But the third condition is not available in Israel, and I challenge it to say where its borders are. This leads us to wonder how can world nations remain silent to these violations of international law, and how can they continue to recognize Israel and deal with it while it mocks everyone, and continues to violate the agreements signed with it, and persists in its repressive and colonialist practices, and the creation of an apartheid, and the desecration of our peoples and our Christian and Islamic sacred [places]?”
Palestinians level serious accusations
Abbas declared that “there is no one better at falsifying history or religion than them,” leaving his words ambiguous as to whether he meant Israel or the Jews.
Abbas told the OIC, “At this occasion, I don’t want to discuss history or religion, because there is no one better at falsifying history or religion than them. But if we read the Torah, it says that the Canaanites lived here before Abraham and haven’t left since that time. It hasn’t been interrupted. That’s in the Torah. They want to fabricate, ‘to distort the words from their [proper] usages.’”
“These unilateral steps by President Trump will not give any legitimacy to Israel in Jerusalem. It is a Palestinian Arab Muslim Christian city, the eternal capital of the state of Palestine. There can be no Palestinian state without the city of Jerusalem as its capital and there will be no peace in the region and in the world without it.”
“Yes, women and men believe in our right and God’s promise to us, that this holy Palestinian city since it was founded by the Canaanite Jebusites five thousand years ago, … will not be other than the capital of our independent state and the sovereign State of Palestine; we want it to be an open city to all followers of the heavenly religions to practice their worship. We want it to be a bridge of coexistence and peace, so that all its believers and visitors will enjoy freedom, security and stability.”
Abbas blasted for ‘path of lies’
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely issued a statement blasting Abbas for his “path of lies” and for denying “the Jewish people’s connection to its land.”
Hotovely responded in writing, “Abu Mazen [Abbas] insists to continue on the path of lies and to deny the Jewish people’s connection to its land. When the Hasmoneans returned to the Kingdom of Israel [around the year 110 BCE] no one disputed the Jewish people’s historic connection to the Land of Israel. Every stone in Jerusalem testifies to the thousand-year-old connection between the Jews and their land.”
The White House has yet to respond directly to Abbas’ remarks declaring that Washington is out of the peace process. They have dispatched Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt to the region, but it’s unlikely that he will meet Abbas or other Palestinian leaders who have repeatedly declared their refusal to meet Vice President Pence when he arrives in Israel on Wednesday. Unnamed Washington officials are only saying that they anticipated the Palestinian reaction to the Jerusalem announcement.
Palestinian affairs expert Dr. Gershon Baskin told WIN, Abbas’ remarks to the OIC are as much of a game changer as Trump’s speech. “Symbolism and words heighten tension,” said Baskin.
“Fortunately, words and symbols are still retractable. They do not change facts on the ground. The negative dynamic can be retracted by future leaders after Trump, Abbas and Netanyahu are no longer in the picture,” said Baskin.
As for the coming days, Baskin told WIN, “There will be a total US boycott because to do otherwise would be viewed as capitulation.” Indeed on Sunday afternoon an aide to Abbas announced that the boycott would include peace envoys Greenblatt and Jared Kushner.
Now that the Palestinians have ruled out the US as a partner and severed contacts, they are determined to fight the Trump declaration at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
The UNSC is considering a draft resolution stating that any decisions on the status of Jerusalem have no legal effect and must be rescinded. The one-page Egyptian-drafted text does not specifically mention the United States or Trump. Diplomats say it has broad support in the council but will surely be vetoed by Washington.