Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud walks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a reception ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia November 7, 2017.
(photo credit: SAUDI PRESS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decided to deliver Sunday’s speech – in which he ruled out a peace process as long as Donald Trump is US president – after parts of Trump’s Middle East peace plan were leaked to him by the Saudis, Channel 2 reported on Tuesday night.
Even before Sunday’s speech, Ben Caspit of The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew sister paper Maariv reported last week that Abbas was angered by the preliminary reports of Trump’s plan that the Saudis had given him. The report said those leaks were the real reason Abbas did not intend to return to the negotiating table, and not Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
According to the reports on Channel 2 and in Maariv
, the Trump plan being written by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner would create a Palestinian entity that is less than a state, and it would not be based on the pre-1967 lines. Israel would control its borders and the Jordan Valley, Jerusalem would be an issue for negotiations, settlements might not have to be removed, and the Palestinian refugee issue would not be addressed.
“We understood that Trump’s declaration did not really matter and had no impact on what is happening on the ground,” Caspit quoted senior officials close to Abbas telling Knesset members who met with him last week. “We just used the declaration as a preemptive strike to torpedo the negotiations before the Americans finished drafting their peace plan, so we wouldn’t have to reject it publicly later on.”
The Palestinians were quoted saying that the international community accepted the Jerusalem excuse for ruling out negotiations because there is a consensus in the world on the city being the capital of two states.
In Sunday’s speech to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council, Abbas called Trump’s plan “the slap in the face of the century.”
Channel 2 diplomatic correspondent Dana Weiss reported that a close Abbas associate heard details of the plan in Saudi Arabia 10 days before Abbas’s Sunday speech in which he cursed at Trump and expressed hope that his “house would be destroyed.”
Ahmad Majdalani, a confidant of Abbas, denied Channel 2’s report that Abbas had dispatched an envoy to Saudi Arabia to listen to the details of Trump’s peace plan.
“No one was sent to Saudi Arabia earlier this month to hear about the details of Trump’s peace plan,” Majdalani told the Post
. “The report is not accurate.”
A senior White House official told the Post
that neither Abbas nor his advisers had seen the plan and claimed they were working prematurely to undermine it.
“It is unfortunate that the Palestinian leadership is seeking to prejudice people against our unfinished plan, which they have not seen,” the senior official said. “We do not know what they claim to have seen. We will present proposals directly to the Israelis and the Palestinians at the appropriate time and under the right conditions. In the meantime, we will remain hard at work on a draft plan that benefits both sides while some prejudge and undermine efforts to achieving lasting peace.”
The Abbas speech has been criticized by politicians from across the Israeli political spectrum, including by current Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay, who called it “full of lies and antisemitism,” and former Labor leader and prime minister Ehud Barak, who said “Abbas’s speech was shameful and ridiculous.”
“The main responsibility for the continuation of the conflict is on Abbas’s shoulders,” Barak wrote on Twitter. “Our responsibility is to take action not for the Palestinian’s caprices but for our own interest of guaranteeing Israel’s security and its future as a Jewish and democratic state.”
Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai eulogized Abbas’s career but expressed optimism that the peace process could be restarted with his successor.
“As someone who believes in a two-state solution, I haven’t lost hope,” Shai said. “Someone will replace Abbas sooner or later. We have to look forward and see who will be the new leader, and he will be our partner.”
But Meretz MK Mossi Raz defended Abbas, saying that the PA leader still supports the two-state solution, continues security cooperation with Israel, and has even given up the drive to reclaim his boyhood home in Safed.
“I wish our side was ready for pre-1967 borders, evacuating settlements, and recognizing the suffering of the ‘other,’” Raz said. “Israeli politicians say the Oslo peace process is dead, so it should not be a big deal when Abbas says it, too.”
Former Peace Now secretary- general Yariv Oppenheimer said that if a peace process is not restarted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump are to blame, not Abbas.
“Our government doesn’t support a Palestinian state, so Abbas is still more moderate than our government,” Oppenheimer said. “Some of the things he said like his incorrect history of Zionism were hard for a pro-peace person to hear, and I wish they weren’t said, but some of what he said was understandable. He didn’t burn any bridges like dismantling the PA, he didn’t accept the demands in the PLO to stop recognizing Israel, and he still supports two states, so he is still our partner.”Michael Wilner in Washington and Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.