White House senior adviser Jared Kushner delivers remarks on the Trump administration's approach to the Middle East region at the Saban Forum in Washington, US, December 3, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS/JAMES LAWLER DUGGAN)
US President Donald Trump’s envoys are destroying any chance of achieving a just peace in the Middle East, PLO leaders said on Thursday.
The leaders, who held consultations in Ramallah, lashed out at US Ambassador David Friedman for participating in this week’s opening of the Pilgrimage Road, an ancient path used by ritual processions ascending from the Pool of Siloam to the temple Mount.
Referring to Friedman as a “settler,” members of the PLO Executive Committee said that the sledgehammer used by the ambassador to open Pilgrimage Road “ended any possibility of talking about an American role in the region in light of America’s partnership with the extreme Right and colonial settler groups.”
The PLO leaders claimed that the opening of the ancient path destroys Jerusalem’s historic landmark and is part of an “ongoing policy of Judaization and ethnic cleansing.”
In their statement, the leaders also rejected remarks by Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was quoted this week as saying that the US administration’s upcoming peace plan, also known as the Deal of the Century, will seek to integrate Palestinian refugees inside Arab countries.
Kushner’s remarks are seen by Palestinian leaders as part of an effort to deny Palestinian refugees and their descendants the “right of return” to their former homes inside Israel.
“Kushner is talking about ending the right of return after the failure of the Manama workshop in an attempt to sell illusions in the region,” the PLO committee charged. “He is hoping to do so through billions of dollars in an attempt to trade Palestinian rights for money and virtual projects,” it added, referring to the recent US-led “Prosperity to Peace” economic conference in Bahrain.”
The PLO committee affirmed Palestinian “adherence to the right of return on the basis of UN Resolution 194, the right to self-determination, and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the June 4, 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”
The committee also backed the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to receive tax revenues from Israel as long as the Israeli government continues to deduct payments made by the PA to families of security prisoners and Palestinians killed during attacks on Israelis.
“These funds belong to the Palestinians,” the PLO committee said, adding that it rejects Israeli “piracy, extortion and theft.”
On Wednesday night, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said during a press conference in Ramallah that there’s nothing that the Trump administration could offer the Palestinians.
“The Deal of the Century has ended,” Abbas said. “We have clearly and frankly said that we won’t accept this deal. We won’t allow America to impose its view on us. We won’t accept America as the sole mediator. There are other mediators like Russia, China, the UN, the EU, Japan, and Arab countries.”
Abbas said he was prepared to resume contacts with the Trump administration only if it recognizes the two-state solution and east Jerusalem as an “occupied” city, as well as “international legitimacy as a basis for any dialogue.” The PA, he said, “hasn’t closed the doors with America. We have left the door open.”
Abbas scoffed at the economic aspect of Trump’s Deal of the Century, which offers billions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians. “I’m not in need of an economy,” he said. “I need dignity, I need security for my people, I need a state.”
Referring to Kushner, Abbas said: “You’re telling me you want to bring me $27 billion from the Arab states. I can go to the Arab states and ask them to give me. Why do I need a mediator? I can call any Arab brother and ask for money. You are lying. You want to do me a favor by taking a loan from the Arabs? It’s all lies. The [Bahrain workshop] is a big lie invented by Kushner and others to fool people. But no one can fool us.”
Abbas also warned the Arabs against normalizing their relations with Israel before solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, saying it would be a “political mistake.”
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