The Trump administration’s acceptance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s talk regarding his plans to annex portions of the West Bank will inflame the region, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman said on Sunday.
“These statements will harm any international efforts to achieve peace,” Nabil Abu Abu Rudaineh said.
Abu Rudaineh’s comments came in response to statements made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during an interview Friday with CNN’s Jake Tapper, in which Pompeo said Netanyahu’s promise to annex parts of the West Bank wouldn’t harm the “deal of the century” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which the Trump administration is expected to roll out in June.
Pompeo’s statements, Abu Rudaineh said, were “irresponsible and unacceptable and represent a departure from international law and a provocation to the Palestinians.”
The Palestinian position, he added, is “clear, as expressed by President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday: rejection of the deal of the century and resisting it because of the positions of the US administration toward Jerusalem, settlements, refugees and other rights of our people.”
The PA official warned that statements like those made by Pompeo will lead to more tensions in the region and throughout the world. He also reaffirmed the Palestinian and international position that considers settlements illegal. “These statements will harm any international efforts to achieve peace,” Abu Rudaineh added.
Anyone who believes that Trump’s upcoming plan for peace in the Middle East – the “deal of the century” – will pass, is living in an illusion, Abu Rudaineh said.
“The heroic Palestinian people will not allow the passage of any conspiracy to undermine their rights, first and foremost the right to Jerusalem and its holy sites.”
Netanyahu first pledged to annex all the West Bank settlements, during the final days of his reelection campaign earlier this month. It was the first time he has publicly made such a pledge.
The Palestinians hold that any two-state resolution to the conflict must include an Israeli evacuation of all the settlements and its complete withdrawal from the West Bank. Most of the international community stands by the Palestinians in this matter.
US officials have not revealed the details of the peace plan, but have said it will not fall along the parameters of past understandings. It’s presumed that this means it will not include a demand for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.
The Trump administration has been silent about Netanyahu’s statements, with Pompeo ducking questions about the issue.
On Friday, Tapper asked Pompeo if he was concerned by Netanyahu’s annexation promises.
“Do you think that might hurt the pursuit of peace, the two-state solution proposal that Jared Kushner and others, including you, have been working so hard on?” Tapper asked.
“I don’t,” Pompeo responded.
The secretary of state continued: “I think that the vision that we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used.”
Pompeo added, “We’ve had a lot of ideas for 40 years; they did not deliver peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Our mission is to put forward a vision. Ultimately, the Israelis and the Palestinian people will have to make this, resolve this for themselves.”
Pompeo did not provide new details about the plan, but told Tapper the administration’s vision for peace was “different” and “unique,” and that it would be a vision “that tries to reframe and reshape what’s been an intractable problem that multiple administrations have grappled with – multiple administrations in Israel, as well.
“We hope that we can get to a better place,” he continued. “Everyone wants this conflict resolved. We want a better life for the Israelis without this conflict, and we certainly want a better life for the people... the Palestinian people, both in the West Bank and in Gaza.”
Last week, Pompeo refused to endorse a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last Wednesday regarding the State Department’s 2020 budget request, Pompeo expressed hope that the upcoming peace plan would create the conditions in which Israelis and Palestinians could solve the conflict, but did not provide any specifics.
In a four-minute exchange between Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Pompeo, the two argued about the prospects of an upcoming peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Kaine pressured Pompeo to say whether the official US position is still to back the two-state solution, but Pompeo declined to give a definite answer.