Ungrateful? Abbas calls European Union ‘animals’

The PA president blasted the political entity that has provided huge amounts of money to prop up the Authority.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas blasted the European Union Monday for pressuring him to hold elections three years ago, telling a sympathetic audience that “they’re animals,” Times of Israel reported Tuesday.

Abbas was meeting with a small group of Palestinian-American leaders, as he does every year on the sidelines of the opening of the UN General Assembly. Two sources who were present at the Hyatt Grand Central New York hotel room told the Times that Abbas said that senior EU officials raised the topic of the elections to him in 2020. The PA leader said he had committed to holding both parliamentary and presidential elections only if they could get Israel to include eastern Jerusalem voters.

The PA considers eastern Jerusalem its future capital, while all Israeli governments have insisted that the city must remain the undivided capital of the Jewish state. The Palestinians have thus consistently tried to increase their hold there, although it is illegal for the PA to have any formal connections in the city. Having Jerusalem’s Arab residents go to PA polls locally is an additional powerful signal that Israel has consistently resisted.

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When the EU officials said they would push the matter with Jerusalem, Abbas announced in January 2021 that both sets of elections would take place, in May and July respectively. However, the EU effort failed, as Benjamin Netanyahu, who was a caretaker prime minister at the time, refused the Palestinian demand.

This angered Abbas, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. He called the EU “animals,” the sources said, an Arabic insult directed at those considered disobedient.

Brussels was “all talk” but no action, Abbas continued, and he called off the elections rather than do what the officials then urged – compromise on the matter, such as by having the Jerusalem voters do so by mail.

Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, the EU’s former ambassador to the PA, confirmed the request, telling Times of Israel in August, “My argument to President Abbas is and remains: ‘How come you are giving Israel veto power over whether you can hold your right to political self-determination wherever and whenever you want?’”

Abbas’ insulting words were in fact directed against the the Palestinian Authority’s largest financial backer. Since 2008, a recent EU report noted, “the European Union, Norway and Switzerland have provided over 14 billion dollars in official development assistance to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinians.”

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This year alone, the EU is supporting the PA to the tune of €296 million, with over a third going to paying salaries and pensions of civil servants and social allowances to vulnerable families,” it announced in February.

Abbas was elected to a four-year term in 2005 and has held power ever since. The last time the Palestinian Legislative Council was voted in was 2006. Abbas then suspended its activities in 2007.