In Christmas Message Aimed at Trump, Abbas Says Palestinians Will Never Accept Any Peace Plan From U.S.

In message to Christians lamenting Trump's recognition of Jerusalem, Abbas says U.S. decision is 'insulting' to Palestinians and to the 'message of Jesus'

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's Extraordinary Summit in Istanbul, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's Extraordinary Summit in Istanbul, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.Credit: Emrah Yorulmaz/Pool Photo via AP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas came out Friday against the American peace initiative and said the Palestinians would not accept any plan made by the Americans due to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem, a move that was widely rejected by the world in a UN vote Thursday.

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In a Christmas letter to Christians, Abbas wrote that the Palestinians will not "accept any plan from the U.S." due to the White House's "biased" support of Israel and its settlement policy. He also said the American plan "is not going to be based on the two-state solution on the 1967 border, nor is it going to be based on international law or UN resolutions."

Abbas’ letter was sent as he met with French President Emmanuel Macron, at the end of talks he held in Saudi Arabia as part of the international contacts the Palestinians conducted in response to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem.

During a news conference in Paris, Abbas urged France and Europe to play a stronger role in peace efforts, saying the U.S. "no longer an honest mediator in the peace process."

Macron was careful not to take sides, saying "the American mistake was to want to unilaterally manage from afar a situation whose solution is in the hands of the Israelis and Palestinians."

Sources close to Abbas said that the Christmas letter, that noted local churches' objection to the change in American policy, was written in wake of Trump's decision on Jerusalem, which Abbas described as an "insult to millions of people worldwide, and also to the city of Bethlehem."

A Muslim woman takes a picture of the Christmas manger placed on the Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on December 21, 2017. Credit: AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX

"This time every year, the souls of billions of people turn to Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the messenger of love, peace and justice," Abbas wrote in the latter.

"Bethlehem, the birthplace of hope, continues to be affected by Israeli policies. Regretfully, the U.S. has decided to reward such policies by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

"It is because of this U.S. decision to support illegality and the blatant violations of our rights, that we will not accept the U.S. as the mediator in the peace process nor are we going to accept any plan from the U.S. side.  The U.S. chose to be biased," he wrote.

"We are inspired by the message of Jesus, who refused injustice and spread a word of hope. The Holy Bible says 'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.' Threats against those who support justice will be met with the same spirit and response from our nation and from millions of dignified people around the world."

A senior Palestinian official who was involved in the writing of the message told Haaretz that the Palestinian leadership had not received any messages or information on the peace plan supposedly being prepared by the White House and that there is almost a complete disconnect with the Trump administration.

On Thursday, Haaretz reported that Abbas dispatched his close adviser Nabil Sha’ath to Russia for talks with senior officials in the Kremlin, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.  Sha’ath will discuss the possibility of the Russians taking a more active role in the peace process, along with other nations such as China and France.

Because of the Russian involvement in Syria and their dealings with other Middle East countries, including Turkey and Iran, the Palestinians think Israel would be unable to ignore pressure from Moscow.

>> Top analyses on UN vote: Netanyahu touts Israel's warming diplomatic ties, but UN vote teaches lesson in humilityUN vote is mild rebuke for Israel but a slap in face for TrumpFact check: Why Israeli UN envoy's speech on Jerusalem missed the mark <<

UN General Assembly rejects Trump's recognition of Jerusalem in vote on December 21, 2017 Credit: Haaretz

On Thursday, Palestinians called on Trump to accept the UN General Assembly's vote that overwhelmingly rejected the American president's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas thanked the 128 countries that voted in favor of the resolution, "despite all the pressure exerted on them," making a nod to diplomatic efforts by Israel as well as direct threats by Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Niki Haley.

Abu Rdeneh said in a statement to the Palestinian news agency Wafa that the vote reflects the support the Palestinians enjoy in the international community. He said the Palestinians will continue their efforts in international forums to help create a Palestinian state.

The UN General Assembly voted 128-9 with 35 abstentions in favor of the resolution, a smaller margin than the Palestinians hoped for, likely reflecting U.S. threats to cut funding for those who voted "yes."

Top Palestinian diplomat and peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the decision made at the General Assembly was "very important" because "the world is saying that President Trump's declaration in the eyes of the international community is a void and unjust decision."

"We as Palestinians have started to act," Erekat added, "and at our helm is President [Abbas] who is acting with Arab leaders and world leaders in order to initiate an international committee for peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders."

"It is time the countries of the world recognize Palestine at the 1967 borders," Erekat urged.

A Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum called the UN resolution "a step in the right direction" and "a blow to (President Donald) Trump's announcement." He said the resolution emphasizes "the Palestinian right to the holy city."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "Israel completely rejects this preposterous resolution. Jerusalem is our capital, always was and always will be."

Netanyahu went on to thank "President Trump and Ambassador Haley for their stalwart defense of Israel and their stalwart defense of the truth."

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