Palestinian officials in Ramallah stressed on Monday that the annexation of parts of the West Bank to Israel would not stop the Palestinians from pursuing their struggle to “achieve freedom and justice.” They also warned that such a move would mean the end of the two-state solution.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority resumed its attacks on US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, accusing him of “distorting history” and “lying.”
The Palestinians were reacting to increased talk in Israel about the possibility that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would extend Israeli law to all West Bank settlements with the full backing of the US administration.
On Sunday, Israel’s Channel 12 claimed that US President Donald Trump’s upcoming plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “deal of the century,” will provide for all settlements to remain under Israeli rule. The report further claimed that the Trump administration will not oppose the extension of Israeli law to all of the settlements in the West Bank.
On Monday, PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, who recently said that the “deal of the century” was born dead, urged all countries to recognize a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as its capital, as a preemptive measure against Trump’s plan.
Shtayyeh also called on all countries to recognize the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
Speaking during the weekly meeting of the PA cabinet in Ramallah, Shtayyeh said that all countries that believe in the two-state solution “must respond to Israeli threats to annex parts of the West Bank.”
The response, he added, should be in the form of preemptive measures such as recognizing an independent Palestinian state and the refugees’ “right of return.”
The PA premier reiterated his opposition to Israel’s deduction of payments made by the PA government to families of security prisoners and “martyrs” from tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians. The Israeli deductions, he said, “are illegal and are aimed at convicting our sons who are in the occupations prisons. We reject this for political and legal reasons.”
Shtayyeh called on all Palestinians to participate in rallies on Wednesday marking “Nakba Day,” or Catastrophe Day – the term Palestinians use to describe the establishment of Israel in 1948. He also called on Palestinians to consider “Nakba Day” as a “day for educating people about Palestine and its history, so that Palestinian memory will remain alive in the hearts and minds of all Palestinians.”
The PA’s ruling Fatah faction also commented on the growing talk about extending Israeli law to the settlements, dubbing it a “recipe for destruction.”
Osama Qawassmeh, a member of the Fatah “Revolutionary Council,” warned that the annexation of the West Bank or any part of it to Israel would be seen as an official Israeli-American decision to prevent the establishment of an independent Palestinian state “on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital.”
Qawassmeh warned that such a move would also signal the end of the two-state solution “on the basis of international resolutions.”
Israeli “threats to annex the West Bank or parts of it will not make us change our position towards the deal of shame,” the Fatah official said in reference to the “deal of the century.”
Accusing the US administration of seeking to “blackmail” the Palestinians, Qawassmeh said that the Palestinian “struggle will continue and won’t stop until we achieve freedom and justice for our people.”
ALSO ON MONDAY, the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs renewed its attacks on Friedman. The attack came in response to an opinion piece the ambassador published in Israel Hayom on Sunday.
“On May 14, 2018, the United States finally opened its Embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem,” Friedman wrote. “In making the courageous decision to take this historic step, President Trump not only fulfilled a 23-year-old mandate from the United States Congress, but he also recognized a 3,000-year-old truth that Israel’s enemies have long sought to erase.”
He continued: “America has been fascinated by Jerusalem since the early days of our republic. In 1844, Warder Cresson, the first Consul General, announced after his appointment by the Secretary of State that the United States was thereby extending its protection to the Jews of Jerusalem. The first permanent consular presence opened just inside the Jaffa Gate in 1857, and diplomatic presence has remained constant in and around the Old City ever since. President [Abraham] Lincoln, just before his death, told his wife how he longed to visit Jerusalem. And [president] Ulysses Grant and Mark Twain both visited Jerusalem in the mid-19th century and wrote extensively about their experiences.”
“Neither Grant nor Twain were all that impressed with Jerusalem in those days. It was poor, inhospitable and undeveloped. The Old City of Jerusalem remained that way well into the 20th Century, whether under the rule of the Ottoman Empire until 1917, the British Mandate until 1948, or the Kingdom of Jordan until 1967.
“In 1967, Jerusalem was reunified as a single city under Israeli rule. Almost immediately, Jerusalem began to bloom, to flourish and to become, for the first time in its history, a free city open to the worshipers of all three Abrahamic faiths.”
Friedman’s words drew strong condemnation from the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In a statement, the ministry said that “the settler Friedman, in an article full of lies, falsification of facts and distortion of history, revealed his ideological affiliation with the extreme Right in Israel.”
The PA ministry dismissed Friedman’s talk about Jewish history in Jerusalem and accused him of endorsing statements made by Netanyahu and other Israeli right-wingers. It said that Trump’s “Zionist team” was seeking to justify the extension of Israeli law to the settlements.
“The positions, tweets and articles of Friedman and the Trump team defy the will of the international community,” the statement said. “Friedman’s efforts to beautify the occupation and the Judaization of Jerusalem are doomed to failure.”
In March 2018, Abbas strongly denounced Friedman, calling him a “son of a dog” and a “settler.” In a speech before Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, Abbas said in response to remarks by the US ambassador about the settlements: “Son of a dog. They [the settlers] are building on their land? You are a settler and your family are settlers.”
Abbas is reported to have dispatched two senior Palestinian officials to meet with Friedman and apologize on behalf of the PA president.