Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas does not believe that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, he told representatives of the left-wing Meretz party on Tuesday, according to a source present at the meeting.
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Abbas' remarks come despite repeated statements by Trump and his advisors during the presidential campaign and after the election that the embassy would be located. Abbas also said he intends to take part in the peace conference to be held in Paris on January 15, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to boycott.
"We are acting with patience and restraint in the face of president-elect Trump's statements," the source at the meeting quoted Abbas as saying. "We understand that things that are said during a campaign do not necessarily reflect the reality of his term. I do not believe that he will move the embassy to Jerusalem. Even he understands that this is a step with irreversible and broad significance beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Abbas told the Meretz delegation that if Trump does move the embassy to Jerusalem in the end, the Palestinians will take steps in response. He however did not say what steps they would take, said the source.
The meeting with Meretz representatives, headed by the party's secretary general, Moshe (Mossi) Raz, was part of a series of meetings Abbas has been holding over the past 10 days with Israelis, both those in the political system and outside it, who support a two-state solution the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A few days ago, Abbas met with a delegation of former Knesset members and on Thursday he will meet with representatives of a number of Israeli peace organizations.
Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the PLO, last week said that if the United States moves its embassy to Jerusalem, the Palestinians will demand that Arab countries expel U.S. ambassadors from their capitals. He also warned that the Palestinian will take steps against Israel, such as reducing security and economic coordination as well as consider backtracking on its recognition of Israel.
Abbas said at the meeting, the source said, that the United Nations Security Council resolution on the settlements is just the beginning, and expressed hope that the peace conference in Paris will adopt adopt further decisions.
Abbas said that the next step for the Palestinians is achieving recognition of Palestine by a number of Western countries, as well as an attempt to be recognized as a full member-nation in the United Nations General Assembly through a vote in the Security Council.
"Resolution 2334 is a praiseworthy international declaration in the direction of ending the occupation and settlement enterprise," said Abbas at the meeting with Meretz.
"I looked at the resolution and I don't find anything against Israel in it, only against the settlements and illegal outposts," he said. "The next step is implementing the decision, and I hope that the means of acting for this goal will become clear at the Paris peace conference, which I will attend.
"I was disappointed to hear that Prime Minister Netanyahu chose not to [attend]," Abbas said.
Netanyahu to ambassadors: Prevent another UN resolution
Netanyahu said Tuesday that although the Paris peace conference is a futile effort, there are signs that various groups will try to turn decisions made there into UN Security Council resolutions. Then, he said, it will no longer be fruitless.
"We have quite a few signs that this is the plan," he told Israeli ambassadors in Europe during a conference held at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. "We need to prevent another UN resolution and a decision by the Quartet. This must be your main effort during the next two weeks."