Abbas Says Will Cut Security Ties With U.S., Israel, as Arab League Rejects Trump Plan

League says will not cooperate with U.S. to execute plan ■ Israeli officials hopeful that rejection will lead to U.S. green light for unilateral annexation

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives for an emergency meeting with the Arab League's foreign ministers in Cairo, Egypt, February 1, 2020.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives for an emergency meeting with the Arab League's foreign ministers in Cairo, Egypt, February 1, 2020. Credit: MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY/ REUTERS

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday the Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel, including those relating to security, after rejecting a Middle East peace plan presented by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Abbas was in Cairo to address the Arab League, which backed the Palestinians in their opposition to Trump's plan.

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The Arab League rejected Trump's plan, saying in a communique it would not lead to a just peace deal and adding it will not cooperate with the United States to execute the plan.

The ministers affirmed Palestinian rights to create a future state based on the land captured and occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, with East Jerusalem as capital, the final communique said.

Israeli officials expressed hope Saturday that the League's rejection could bring the U.S. closer to green-lighting unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank, in light of the fact that Jared Kushner opposed immediate steps toward annexation because he thought the Arab League might support the plan.

Abbas, who said “a thousand no’s” to U.S. President Donald Trump's proposal, spoke at the gathering: "We requested this urgent meeting to put a halt to the consent bound up in the U.S. plan on everything related to the Palestinian issue, and we will fight to prevent a situation in which the plan will become a legitimate formula that is adopted by the international community."

"We told Israel and the United States that we will not have any more ties with them, including on the security level," Abbas said.

Once the United States became the exclusive sponsor of the negotiation process, Abbas said, there have been no developments on the Palestinian issue. "I met with Trump four times and his team 37 times, and we did not achieve any progress," Abbas added. The Palestinian Authority will now turn to the UN Security Council instead.

"We were surprised that after a good meeting with Trump, he declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that he will transfer the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem," Abbas said, referring to the Trump administration's December 2017 decision.

"Trump's plan leaves the Palestinians with just 11 percent of Palestinian territory. We agreed to 1967 borders, which is 22 percent," the Palestinian president said, "and now they want to take even that away from us." He added that the plan would divide prayer times at the Temple Mount between Muslims and Jews, "and if that were up to Israel," he said, "they would not let us pray."

He added that at the moment when they said that East Jerusalem is part of Israel, "I said that I will never agree with that, and that it will not be recorded in my history that I gave up on Jerusalem," which the Palestinians want as a capital.

Even so, Abbas reiterated, "We still believe in peace and want an international mechanism that will implement the decisions of the international community. We're not asking for the impossible, we don't want to go against the United States, we want them to adopt our position."

Mahmoud Abbas holds a placard showing maps of Palestine at an Arab League emergency meeting, Cairo, Credit: AFP

The Palestinians told Israel and the United States directly in two petitions after Trump's plan was presented that the Palestinian Authority will cut ties with Israel "out of a blatant breach of agreements on Israel's part," Abbas said, and that Israel bears all responsibility.

Abbas's statement received much coverage in Palestinian media, especially those affiliated with his administration, but the real test will be the practical application of any measures. Since 2015, Palestinian institutions have attempted on several occasions to stop coordinating with Israel, with little success.

The Palestinian leadership is expected to meet again in the coming days to discuss implementation of the decision. They will also need to craft a response to Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett's decision to prevent the entry of Palestinian agricultural goods into Israel.

The UN Security Council plans to hold a session on the plan in about ten days, with the expected participation of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft. The Palestinian delegation is preparing to present a resolution condeming the plan, which will likely be blocked by a U.S. veto.

On Saturday, Abbas met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi before arriving at Arab League headquarters. Majdi al-Khaldi, a diplomatic adviser to Abbas, said they would discuss measures to “protect the Palestinian people’s rights.”

Al-Khaldi, who accompanies Abbas on his trips to world capitals, said the Arab League meeting aims at issuing a “clear declaration” rejecting the deal.

The Arab League’s head, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, said as the meeting began that implementing Trump's plan would perpetuate apartheid, and is disadvantageous for Israel as well.

Aboul-Gheit said on Wednesday that an initial study of the plan’s political framework showed that it “ignored legitimate Palestinian rights in the territories.”

Arab League emergency meeting discussing the US-brokered proposal for a settlement of the Middle East conflict, Cairo, February 1, 2020Credit: AFP

He said the Palestinian response would be key in shaping a “collective Arab position” on the plan, which he noted was a “non-binding U.S. vision.”

President Trump unveiled the long-awaited proposal Tuesday in Washington. It would allow Israel to annex all 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 quarter of the West Bank.

In return, 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 President Trump’s efforts and called for renewed negotiations without commenting on the plan’s content.

Egypt urged in a statement 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 has 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.

Noa Landau and Reuters contributed to this report.

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