Abbas Rips Into Trump: Palestinians Are Original Canaanites, Were in Jerusalem Before the Jews

Speaking in Egypt, Abbas says 'Every U.S. administration curses its predecessor – how can we have faith in them as mediators?'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaks during a conference on Jerusalem at the Al-Azhar Conference Center, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. Abbas blasted Trump again over Jerusalem, saying the U.S. leader's decision to recognize contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital was "sinful." (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Amr Nabil/AP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas lashed out on Wednesday at U.S. President Donald Trump over his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. In Cairo, Abbas also said that the Palestinians were the "original Canaanites" and were in Jerusalem from before the Jews.

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"Every American administration has cursed its predecessor and promised something new but nothing came of it," the Palestinain president said at summit on Jerusalem at Cairo's Al-Azhar university, the 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Muslim learning. "How can we have faith that the super-power would be a mediator between us and the Israelis?" he asked.

After Trump's "sinful" decision in December to change the status of Jerusalem and his decision to relocate the American embassy, "the U.S. has pulled itself out of the diplomatic process and can no longer be a mediator or sponsor," he said.

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"Our position is that we want a state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and a resolution of all key issues," Abbas said.

Abbas, a long-time opponent of violence, said that Palestinians "will continue to peacefully pursue our demands until we win back our rights." He said the Palestinians would continue to support peace, "but not at every price."

Abbas said that the Palestinians are the "original Canaanites" and that they were in Jerusalem from before the Jews, a claim he also voiced in his landmark speech a few days ago in which he said that the "Oslo accords are dead." In a speech on Sunday, Abbas said that "any future negotiations will take place only within the context of the international community, by an international committee created in the framework of an international conference. Allow me to be clear: We will not accept America leadership of a political process involving negotiations."

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The Palestinian leader's comments came ahead of a weekend visit to the region by Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence is the most senior American official to visit the Middle East since Trump's Jerusalem decision in December. He will visit Egypt, Jordan and Israel but won't meet with Palestinians.

His remarks also come a day after the U.S. announced it will withhold $65 million from a payment it was scheduled to transfer this month to the UN agency responsible for assisting Palestinian refugees and their descendents in the Middle East. The U.S. will provide $60 million in aid, amounting to roughly half the planned sum of $125 million.

The decision was made following a lengthy internal debate within the Trump administration. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley pushed for a complete freeze of funding to UNRWA, unless the Palestinians commit to U.S.-mediated peace talks with Israel, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other State Department officials warned that such a move would create a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Jordan and the West Bank.