Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday said a peace plan being worked on by US President Donald Trump insulted the Palestinians, calling it a slap in the face, and said the Palestinians would not accept any part of it.
“We told Trump we will not accept his project, the ‘deal of the century,’ which has become the ‘slap of the century,’” said Abbas, expressing Palestinian anger over the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“We do not take instructions from anyone, and say ‘no’ to anyone if it is about our destiny, our cause, our country and our people… 1,000 times no,'” he said, opening a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council in Ramallah.
The meeting, the first in two years, was called to discuss the Palestinian reaction to Trump’s December 6 speech recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in which the US president said his decision merely recognized the reality that Jerusalem already serves as Israel’s capital and was not meant to prejudge the final borders of the city.
“Jerusalem is Mecca. Jerusalem is Mecca,” Abbas declared, comparing Jerusalem to Islam’s holiest site.
Abbas, who will turn 83 in March, told his audience this might be the last time they see him at this forum.
After the Trump declaration, Abbas declared that the US could no longer serve as a peacebroker, and instituted a boycott of the Trump administration, canceling a planned meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence and refusing to meet with US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt.
Abbas also said that Israel had “ended” the landmark Oslo peace accords of the 1990s with its actions.
“I am saying that Oslo, there is no Oslo,” he said at the start of the meeting. “Israel ended Oslo,” Abbas said, adding that the Central Council meeting must take decisions on how to move forward.
“We are an authority without any power and under an occupation without any cost. We will not accept it remaining like this,” he said.
Abbas had long defended the need to preserve the Oslo Accords, arguing it allowed for the return of Palestinian leaders in exile and the creation of the Palestinian Authority.
The Israel air strike Saturday night, Jan. 13, in the southern Gaza Strip was aimed at a terror tunnel running 180m into Israel that Hamas was building under the Kerem Shalom crossing through which convoys of goods pass from Israel to the Gaza Strip.
It also ran into Egyptian territory under the Rafah border between Gaza and Sinai. This was disclosed early Sunday by the IDF spokesman. He noted that Israeli fighters hit the tunnel at the Gaza end. Work to finish its demolition continued Sunday. The new tunnel ran under the gas and heavy oil pipelines through which Israel supplies the Gaza Strip population with fuel.
This was the third Palestinian terror tunnel Israel had discovered and destroyed in the Gaza Strip in recent months.
Hamas and the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad were responsible for the first two.
DEBKAfile adds: Clearly the IDF has been able to develop the technology for detecting and destroying the terror tunnels, so robbing Palestinians of one of their prime weapons of terror against Israel. Hamas will also have understood that Israel gave Egypt prior warning of its air strike Saturday night. This prompted the night curfew Cairo imposed on northern Sinai including the Rafah region an hour earlier. The tunnel network is also Hamas’ main conduit for smuggling arms and combatants into and out of the Gaza Strip through Sinai. Now that the Gaza Strip is under total land blockade, the Palestinian terrorist group faces hard options: Accept Egyptian and Fatah terms for reconciliation, launch a massive rocket attack on Israel, or call on the help of its allies Iran and Hizballah for action to break the blockade and deliver funds and weapons that can overwhelm the IDF and its new anti-tunnel technology.
Sunday’s address by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council sounded like the farewell of a leader at the end of his political path, and he admitted as much.
“This may be the last time that you see me here,” Abbas said in his speech in Ramallah.
In March, Abbas will celebrate his 83rd birthday, and he will be hard-pushed, in celebration, to point to a single significant achievement over the past few years. With no political solution on the horizon, the idea of a two-state solution becoming a sad joke, and the prospects of a unity deal with the Hamas terror group fading daily, it seems that even Abbas has thrown up his hands in despair.
Telling US President Donald Trump, “Your house will be destroyed” could be attributed to the general “Trumpism” which has seized world leaders, but it also points to the deep despair of the Palestinian leadership.
In his first years as Palestinian leader, and especially after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, Abbas succeeding in doing what his predecessor, Yassar Arafat, had not attempted. He ended the chaos that ruled in the West Bank and established a degree of law and order. Together with the Palestinian security forces and with the help of Israel, Abbas managed to stabilize the West Bank and to remove the gunmen from the streets of Palestinian cities. That had previously appeared an impossible goal.
However, since the change of government in Israel, after the resignation of Ehud Olmert — who had offered Abbas the entire West Bank and never received an answer — together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2009 election victory, and especially since Trump entered the White House in 2017, the vision of two states realized through negotiations with Israel has evaporated into the thin air of history.
The banner that Abbas waved time after time, as official and unofficial policy — establishing the State of Palestine along the 1967 borders — became an idea disconnected from reality. It is easy to blame Trump for this situation, but to be realistic, that has been the case since 2009.
The rule of Hamas in Gaza and Israeli settlement building showed clearly that the dream was one thing and the reality was another. Trump’s December 6 White House speech, in which he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, only made matters clearer for the Palestinians, as did the message sent from Saudi Arabia about the “deal of the century” being drawn up by the Trump administration.
The frustration of Abbas and his colleagues was palpable. Furthermore, on Sunday, he did what he is so good at doing — blaming the entire world for the situation of the Palestinians, from the US, to Israel, Hamas, and even the Europeans, for their role in sending the Jews to Israel.
Abbas also dedicated a large part of his address to his internal critics — not only Fatah activists who refused to participate in the conference, but also Hamas and the Islamic Jihad terror groups, who stayed away as well.
Israel, he further charged, destroyed the Oslo accords. “Israel is a colonialist project, which has nothing to do with the Jews,” he added.
Trump gave the Palestinians a slap in the face, he lamented. “The deal of the century became the slap of the century.”
Only a few in the Palestinian Authority and the top echelons of Fatah and the PLO were left off of his list of the culprits behind the failure.
In this vein, over the last few years, Abbas has made sure that he has no heir, nor even a clear official process for choosing a successor. He ignored calls for reform and any kind of criticism. He made sure to isolate and weaken the most popular leader in the West Bank, Marwan Barghouti, imprisoned since 2002 and sentenced by a civilian Israeli court to five life terms for orchestrating a series of terrorist murders during the Second Intifada.
In what seemed like a valedictory address Sunday, Abbas promised that the Palestinians would not give up their rights, that payments to families of terrorists would not stop, and that he would not allow the Americans to mediate in the negotiations. These and many other “nos.”
“We do not take instructions from anyone, and say ‘No’ to anyone, if it is about our destiny, our cause, our country and our people… 1,000 times no,” he said.
Which left many Palestinians asking themselves a simple question — one that many people in Israel also ask their leaders: “So what is ‘yes?'”
It seems unlikely that the answer will be forthcoming during the Abbas-Trump-Netanyahu era.
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