Palestinians slam US envoy over West Bank annexation remarks

Hamas calls on PA to halt security coordination with Israel

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a ceremony marking the 54th anniversary of Fatah's founding, in Ramallah, December 31, 2018 (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a ceremony marking the 54th anniversary of Fatah's founding, in Ramallah, December 31, 2018
Palestinians on Saturday strongly condemned remarks by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who said that Israel “has the right” to annex parts of the West Bank, and accused him of carrying out the policies of “extremist settlers.”
Friedman, in an interview with The New York Times, was quoted as saying that “under certain circumstances, I think that Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank. Certainly, Israel’s entitled to retain some portion of it.”
Friedman accused the Palestinian Authority of using “massive pressure” to deter business leaders from attending next month’s US-led economic workshop in Manama, Bahrain. At the conference, the US is expected to unveil the economic aspect of its long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the Deal of the Century.
US President Donald Trump’s ambassador “provides enough background in order for everyone not to the Manama meeting,” said PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat. “Their vision is about annexation of occupied territory, a war crime under international law.”
Former Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha’ath, who serves as adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the Palestinians were boycotting the US administration because of its measures on the ground that undermine the two-state solution.
The US, he claimed, was imposing the Deal of the Century on the ground without announcing it. “There won’t be a lasting and comprehensive peace without the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders,” Sha’ath said.
Jamal Muheissen, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, said that Palestinians were unanimously opposed to the Deal of the Century, “which aims to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”
Accusing the US and Israel of waging economic war on the Palestinians, Muheissen said that it was time for the “Palestinian street” to sound its voice.
The Fatah leadership said in a statement that Friedman’s statements show that the US has abandoned the two-state solution. “Do these statements represent the official US stance or the position of extremist settlers in Israel?” it asked.
“The Palestinian people and the rest of the world are fed up with Friedman’s claim that the Palestinian leadership has missed generous chances for peace. The Palestinian leadership has endorsed the policy of peace and negotiations since 1988, and signed the Oslo Accords in which it accepted 22 percent of historic Palestine.”
Fatah warned that Friedman’s statements endanger peace and stability in the region, adding that the Palestinians will not accept any solution of deal that does not meet their basic rights and does not lead to a two-state solution.
Hussein al-Sheikh, another senior Fatah official and head of the PA’s General Authority of Civil Affairs, commented on Friedman’s statements by saying they “reveal the truth about the ultimate deal and the conspiracies weaved against the Palestinians.”
Hamas, for its part, called for launching terrorist attacks in the West Bank in response to the US envoy’s statements. It also called on the PA to immediately halt security coordination with Israel in the West Bank.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said that Friedman’s statements “reflect the depth of American complicity in the aggression against the Palestinians.” The statements, he added, are “completely consistent with the views of the far-Right in Israel and demonstrate the US administration’s disregard for all Arab positions.”
Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, said that the US envoy’s statements “reflects the destructive colonialist mentality of the extremist US administration.”
Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab denounced Freidman as an “extremist settler carrying out the colonialist and settler policies of his bosses.”
The PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said that Freidman’s statements are consistent with the positions of “Zionist settlers.”