Posts Tagged ‘Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’

Netanyahu Visit To Oman Sends Signal To Iran; Renews Optimism for Israel-Palestinian Peace Talks

October 27, 2018

Amid speculation Muscat may take a greater role in Israel-Palestinian peace talks, analyst say it’s more likely Jerusalem is using the Gulf nation to send a message to Iran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a surprise visit to Oman on Friday, boosting his claim to be leading Israel into a new era in ties with Arab nations and prompting speculation about what lay behind the rare public interaction between Israel and a Gulf state with which it no longer has diplomatic relations.

There were few concrete details on his talks with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said beyond a joint statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday afternoon, saying the two sides “discussed ways to advance the Middle East peace process and discussed a number of issues of mutual interest to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East.”

The sultanate has long had a low-key role in fostering negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Days before Netanyahu’s visit, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also visited Oman, raising the possibility that Oman might be trying to help revive negotiations or push forward a troubled US peace plan.

But one leading Israeli analyst was skeptical that this was the true reason behind the visit, the first by an Israeli leader in over two decades.

“Oman wants to be a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. However, Israel doesn’t need anyone’s help to be able to talk to the Palestinians,” said Hadashot TV news Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari, pointing to another role for Muscat. “Oman is a pipeline to Tehran.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

Oman, which sits on the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, with Saudi Arabia to its north and Iran to its east, also has a long record of being a quiet broker in the region, opting to stay on the sidelines of the rivalry between the two regional powerhouses.

While Oman’s influence over Israel and the Palestinians is limited, its unique regional position could enable it to play a bigger role mediating between Israel and archenemy Iran.

Sultan Qaboos has managed to steer his country through choppy regional politics with a policy of non-interference, helping broker the release of Western hostages in Yemen and providing a back door for communications between Washington and Tehran under the Obama administration. Although it is a member of the Saudi-led six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, it did not join the kingdom in its boycott of Qatar or the war in Yemen.

“Countries go to Oman if they have a message to give to Iran,” said Ya’ari, also referencing the back-channel work the Omanis did between the Obama administration and Tehran.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Deputy Prime Minister of Oman, Sayyid Fahad Bin Mahmood Al Said after meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders at Camp David in Maryland, Thursday, May 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Israel has repeatedly expressed concern about Iran’s military activities and support for Shiite terror groups in neighboring Syria and warned that it will not allow Iran to maintain a permanent military presence in Syria. In recent months, Israel has carried out a number of strikes on Iranian positions in Syria.

In addition, US sanctions on Iran are to soon go into effect after the Trump administration, with strong Israeli support, backed out of the international nuclear agreement with Iran negotiated by the Obama administration.

The idea of Oman potentially serving as a channel of some kind to Iran appeared to be reinforced by the Palestinians.

A senior Palestinian official said late Friday that the sultan had offered to play a role mediating between the Palestinians and Israelis, and that Abbas had said he welcomes any “meaningful” peace process. But the official said the visit was mostly connected to Oman’s “regional role.”

Netanyahu’s office said he had been invited by the sultan after lengthy communications. Oman state TV carried images of the two leaders meeting and Netanyahu shared a video of his visit on his official social media accounts, calling it “a special visit to Oman — making history!”

Israel and Oman do not have diplomatic relations. Israel is only officially recognized by two Arab states — Egypt and Jordan.

The meeting was the first between leaders of the two countries since then-prime minister Shimon Peres visited in 1996.

Israel and the Palestinians have not held substantive peace talks for the past decade. While US President Donald Trump has promised a Mideast peace plan, US relations with the Palestinians have deteriorated and his efforts to produce the “Deal of the Century” have so far proven fruitless.

The Palestinians cut ties with the US after the White House recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and then moved the American embassy there in May. The US has also cut funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and shuttered the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington. These moves have further alienated the Palestinians.

The US has not released details of its peace plan, but it is widely expected to include a role for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Arab states, including Oman, remain publicly committed to calls for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Oman has joined a chorus of Arab countries that have strongly condemned Israel’s killing of Palestinians in Gaza protests that erupted in May and continued Friday.

A Palestinian woman runs with a Palestinian flag, amid black smoke from tires burned by protesters, during clashes following a riot near the border with Israel east of Gaza City on October 26, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Netanyahu and his wife were joined on the trip by the head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, his national security adviser, his Foreign Ministry director-general, and other defense officials.

Netanyahu has repeatedly stated in recent years that Israel has developed good relations with several Arab states, despite a lack of official ties. But he rarely publicizes these contacts or identifies his partners.

In the lead-up to Friday’s surprise visit to Oman, there have been signs that Israel’s behind the scenes dialogue with Arab states is becoming more public.

In February, Oman’s foreign minister made a rare visit by an Arab official to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and to the West Bank.

Omani Minister for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi center, visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, February 15, 2018. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The following month, Omani officials joined their Arab counterparts from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain at the White House for a meeting with Israeli national security officials to discuss the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.


In about-face, Abbas’s doctor says Palestinian leader staying in hospital

May 27, 2018

No explanation offered as medical center treating 83-year-old Palestinian leader during pneumonia bout reverses course

The Associated Press and the Times of Israel
May 27,2018, 12:41 pm  

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas walking in hospital on May 21, 2018 (Screencapture/twitter)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas walking in hospital on May 21, 2018 (Screencapture/twitter)

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is not leaving the hospital, his doctor said Sunday, abruptly reversing a previous announcement that the leader would be discharged.

Abbas, 83, was hospitalized last week with a fever, just days after undergoing ear surgery. Palestinian officials said he had pneumonia and was on a respirator, receiving antibiotics intravenously.

Yasser Abu Safiyeh initially said Sunday that Abbas would be discharged, and the media was alerted to the hospital. Then the plan was nixed, with no explanation offered.

Abu Safiyeh had indicated Abbas was healthy and had been kept a few extra days “to avoid any setback that could be caused by any infection.”

On Saturday, the head of the Istishari Arab Hospital where Abbas is being treated said the Palestinian leader was in good health.

“His state of health is excellent but the doctors have not yet decided the date of his release,” said Saed Sarahna.

Abbas, who is a heavy smoker and overweight, has a long history of health issues, ranging from heart trouble to a bout with prostate cancer a decade ago.

He has no deputy and his latest health scare and sudden hospitalization revived anxiety over a potentially chaotic or even bloody succession battle.

Recently, a cardiologist moved into the presidential compound in Ramallah to monitor the longtime leader after a mysterious hospital visit in the United States, following Abbas’s address to the United Nations Security Council, in which he appeared weak.

Speaking Tuesday to reporters at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki warned against exaggerating Abbas’s health scare.

“It’s obvious that all of us as humans might have certain health setbacks … President Abbas is not really immune from that,” he said. “Of course we were concerned about his health as anyone should be but you know we should not really take it out of proportion when it comes to his health.”

Pictures of Abbas walking around the wards and reading a newspaper were published last week, in an apparent attempt to calm rumors that his condition was worse than officially reported.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shown recovering in hospital and reading a newspaper, on the back page of which is a cartoon portraying an Israeli soldier poisoning a Palestinian baby, May 22, 2018. (Wafa news agency)

Controversy erupted when viewers noticed the newspaper Abbas was pictured reading prominently carried a large cartoon on its back page, facing the camera, showing an Israeli soldier taking a baby’s milk away from her and ramming poison down her throat instead.

The cartoon referred to a claim by Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry that 8-month-old Layla Ghandour died from inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli troops during violent protests on the Gaza border with Israel on May 14.

The tear gas claim, which made worldwide headlines, is now disputed and the health ministry has backed away from it.

Palestinians said set to withdraw recognition of Israel

May 2, 2018

Sources tell pan-Arab daily that the PLO will seek to pause all agreements until Jerusalem recognizes a state of Palestine

Time of Israel
May 2, 2018

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a Palestinian National Council meeting in Ramallah, April 30, 2018. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a Palestinian National Council meeting in Ramallah, April 30, 2018. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP)

The top-level governing body of the Palestine Liberation Organization is reportedly set to adopt a resolution freezing its recognition of Israel and conditioning it on Israel recognizing a state of Palestine.

Sources close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat that the Palestinian National Council is expected to pass the resolution during its current gathering, and will also put on hold all other agreements with Israel.

Abbas is reportedly to announce the measures during a speech to the council on Thursday evening.

The sources said the PNC, which is holding a rare gathering this week in Ramallah, will make a number of decisions against Israel. Among other things, the council will allow the filing of war crimes complaints against Israeli figures and organizations, the sources said.

The PNC is the legislative body of the PLO, the official representative of the Palestinian people all over the world, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The PA, headed by Abbas, was created as a result of the 1993 Oslo Accords, in which the Palestinians agreed to recognize Israel. The PA is responsible for governing the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Decisions made by the PNC are usually also adopted by the PA.

In addition to the measures against Israel, the PNC will call for ending money transfers to the Gaza Strip, which the Hamas terror group seized from Abbas’s Fatah party in a violent coup in 2007, the report said. Several attempts at reconciliation between the rival factions have failed to restore PA governance in Gaza.

Abbas told the council that the PA, which has already slashed funding and imposed other sanctions on Hamas, transfers some $115 million a month to the Strip.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he chairs a Palestinian National Council meeting in Ramallah, April 30, 2018. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP)

On Monday Abbas provoked condemnation from Israel and the US after he gave a long, rambling speech to the council in which he said that the Holocaust was not caused by anti-Semitism but by the “social behavior” of Jews, including money lending. He touched on a number of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories during what he called a “history lesson” as he sought to prove the 3,000 year-old Jewish connection to the Land of Israel is false.

Abbas also spoke at length about the failed peace process and reiterated his preemptive rejection of the peace plan that the Trump administration is working on, amid an ongoing and deep rift with the US.

The Palestinian leader told the hundreds of delegates that he was sticking to his rejection of any US proposals for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal following the Trump administration’s recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and a decision to move the US embassy there in mid-May.

The 82-year-old Abbas warned that he might “take tough steps in the near future in our relationship with our neighbors (Israel) and the Americans.” He did not elaborate, but said they would be important and far-reaching.

Later this week, the Palestinian National Council is to elect a new PLO Executive Committee, an 18-member leadership group that has served in recent years to rubberstamp any decisions by Abbas.

The elections, tightly controlled by Abbas, are expected to install a new group of loyalists in the committee. The council last convened over 20 years ago.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.


Palestinians must make peace or shut up, Saudi crown prince said — Castigated Palestinian leadership for rejecting opportunities for peace with Israel for decades

April 30, 2018

Israel’s Channel 10 news: In meeting last month in New York, Mohammed bin Salman castigated Abbas and predecessors for spurning opportunities for 40 years

Times of Israel

Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, crown prince of Saudi Arabia,  attends a meeting at the United Nations in New York City, March 27, 2018. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP)

Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, attends a meeting at the United Nations in New York City, March 27, 2018. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP)

At a meeting with Jewish leaders in New York last month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman castigated the Palestinian leadership for rejecting opportunities for peace with Israel for decades, and said they should either start accepting peace proposals or “shut up.”

Citing what it said were multiple sources, Israel’s Channel 10 News on Sunday night quoted what it said were remarks made by the crown prince at the meeting that left those who were present “staggered” by the ferocity of his criticism of the Palestinians.

“For the past 40 years, the Palestinian leadership has missed opportunities again and again, and rejected all the offers it was given,” the Saudi leader reportedly said.

“It’s about time that the Palestinians accept the offers, and agree to come to the negotiating table — or they should shut up and stop complaining,” he reportedly went on.

Prince Salman also told the US Jewish leaders that “the Palestinian issue is not at the top of the Saudi government’s agenda” and elaborated, “There are much more urgent and more important issues to deal with — such as Iran,” according to the TV report.

Nonetheless, the crown prince reportedly stressed that there would have to substantive progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian accord before the Saudis and other Arab states would deepen their relationships with Israel. “There needs to be significant progress toward an agreement with the Palestinians before it will be possible to advance negotiations between Saudi Arabia and the Arab world and Israel,” he was quoted saying.

The TV report dated the meeting to March 27, during the prince’s extensive visit to the US. It did not name those present. The Saudi Embassy said that the crown prince was to have met that week with Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Steven Wernick, head of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; and Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. That meeting, however, which also included Christian leaders, took place on March 28.

The TV report was based on a cable to the Foreign Ministry from an Israeli diplomat in the New York consulate, who was briefed on the meeting by those present, and three other sources who were familiar with the content of the meeting. One of those present told the TV channel that the group was staggered by what the prince had to say, and all but fell off their chairs.

A number of news reports, including by The New York Times and Reuters, have claimed in recent months that the Saudi crown prince has pressured Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to accept a much-anticipated Trump administration peace proposal.

After he met with Jewish and Christian leaders on March 28, the Saudi Embassy in Washington said the meeting “emphasized the common bond among all people, particularly people of faith, which stresses the importance of tolerance, coexistence, and working together for a better future for all of humanity.”

A statement from the embassy added that “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always, and will continue to champion expanding dialogue, building a better understanding among the faiths, and focusing on the shared humanity of all peoples.”

No specific details of what the faith leaders and crown prince spoke about were released.

In an interview published a few days later,  the crown prince recognized Israel’s right to exist and extolled the prospect of future diplomatic relations between his kingdom and the Jewish state.

In an extensive interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the prince laid out his vision for the future of the Middle East, including the possibility of cooperation with Israel.

Asked whether he believes “the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland,” he replied: “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”

However, in keeping with the terms of his kingdom’s regional peace proposal, the Saudi crown prince added that an agreement with the Palestinians was a prerequisite to formal relations. “But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations,” he said.

Did he have “no religious-based objection to the existence of Israel?” he was further asked. To which the crown prince replied: “We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.”

Asked about anti-Semitism in Saudi Arabia, he said: “Our country doesn’t have a problem with Jews. Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend — he married her. Our prophet, his neighbors were Jewish. You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia coming from America, coming from Europe. There are no problems between Christian and Muslims and Jews. We have problems like you would find anywhere in the world, among some people. But the normal sort of problems.”

Israel and Saudi Arabia have no official relations and the kingdom does not recognize the Jewish state. Israel has hinted at clandestine ties with Saudi Arabia in recent years, stressing the two countries share an interest in countering Iran. The rumors of covert relations have been denied by Saudi officials. Still, a Saudi general visited Jerusalem in 2016 and met with Israeli lawmakers, and Saudi officials have met with Israeli officials on several occasions in public. Saudi Arabia also allowed Air India to fly to and from Tel Aviv via its airspace, last month.

Discussing whether a shared concern over Iran was bringing Israel and Saudi Arabia together, he said: “Israel is a big economy compared to their size and it’s a growing economy, and of course, there are a lot of interests we share with Israel, and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan.”

Salman also discussed the threat to the Middle East he said was posed by Iran, even saying that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, “makes Hitler look good.”

“Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. This is bad,” he explained. “But the supreme leader is trying to conquer the world. He believes he owns the world. They are both evil guys. He is the Hitler of the Middle East. In the 1920s and 1930s, no one saw Hitler as a danger. Only a few people. Until it happened. We don’t want to see what happened in Europe happen in the Middle East. We want to stop this through political moves, economic moves, intelligence moves. We want to avoid war.”

Shortly afterwards, Saudi King Salman reaffirmed his nation’s support for the Palestinians in a conversation with US President Donald Trump.

The king “reaffirmed the kingdom’s steadfast position toward the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.


Abbas declares day of mourning as Gaza death toll rises to 12

March 30, 2018

Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declares Saturday a “day of national mourning” to commemorate the Palestinians killed by the IDF during Friday’s mass marches along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Abbas’s decision comes as his Fatah faction called on the international community to intervene to stop the Israeli “massacre” against the “peaceful” Land Day protests in the Gaza Strip.

At least 12 Palestinians have been killed and over 1,000 have been injured in clashes with IDF troops, according to the Hamas-run Palestinian Health Ministry.

The army estimates over 30,000 injured in clashes between IDF troops and rioters along Israel-Gaza border.

Rioters are setting tires on fire and throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border, the army says.



Trump peace plan could recognize Palestinian state – report

February 28, 2018

Times of Israel

Arab diplomats quoted as saying yet-to-be revealed plan will nix refugees’ right of return, raze far-flung settlements, place Jerusalem’s Old City under international protection

Illustrative: Palestinian protesters wave national flags during clashes with Israeli security forces on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City, near the border with Israel, on January 12, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

The Trump administration’s plan for peace in the Middle East may include US and international recognition of a Palestinian state and acceptance of East Jerusalem as its capital, the London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported on Wednesday.

The plan, the report said, calls for placing the Old City of Jerusalem under “international protection.”

The report quoted “knowledgeable Arab diplomatic sources” in Paris as saying that the US is planning to present its plan in the framework of an international conference that would be held in one of the Arab capitals, most likely Cairo, with Israelis in attendance.

However, the sources did not say when the US administration would come out with its plan, the details of which remain under wraps.

The report came following a meeting in Brussels earlier this week in which Arab foreign ministers and their European counterparts discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in wake of reports suggesting that US President Donald Trump’s administration would soon announce its plan for peace, which Trump has referred to as the “deal of the century.”

Arab media have published various accounts of the purported plan, which has already been rejected by the Palestinian Authority as a conspiracy aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause. Some PA officials have referred to the plan as the “slap of the century” and argued that no Palestinian would ever accept it.

According to Wednesday’s report, the US plan requires the Palestinians to give up their demand for “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes inside Israel.

US President Donald Trump reaches to shake Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s hand before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017, in New York. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

In addition, large settlements would remain in place, while small ones would be “relocated,” the report said.

The US plan also calls for expanding the PA’s security and administrative authorities in areas A and B of the West Bank, the report added.

Washington is planning to collect $40 billion to help establish a Palestinian state and its government institutions, the sources told the newspaper. The money is not intended to “buy” Palestinian acceptance of the peace plan, they stressed.

The sources also claimed the plan allows Israel to retain security control over the borders with the West Bank, while responsibility for security of the Gaza Strip would be handed to the Egyptians.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said European Union countries were working to convince the Trump administration to modify parts of the plan.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki. (Flash90)

The EU countries agreed to push for changes prior to the unveiling of the American plan, Malki told the Voice of Palestine radio according to the PA’s official Wafa news agency.

He did not indicate which European countries were pressing the White House to make changes to the plan.

Malki underscored that any future peace agreement must include articles expressing support for a two-state solution, the establishment of a Palestinian state on the so-called 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem, and an end to Israeli settlement construction.


Israel: Ministers rip into Abbas, accuse him of distorting history — “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

February 20, 2018

‘Dr. Abbas and Mr. Abu Mazen, we all know who you are,’ says defense minister; from opposition, Lapid attacks

Times of Israel
February 20, 2018

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations Security Council on February 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations Security Council on February 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)

Israeli politicians slammed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for his speech to the UN Security Council Tuesday, branding him a “liar,” a falsifier of history, and accusing him of duplicity.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, the leader of the coalition Yisrael Beiteynu party, alluded to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in his condemnation of Abbas’s speech.

“We have been committed to fostering a culture of peace, rejection of violence,” said Abbas, adding that he would intensify efforts to secure full UN recognition.

“Dr. Abbas and Mr. Abu Mazen, we all know who you are,” Liberman tweeted. “With one hand you pay salaries to terrorists who strike at Israel, and their families, and with the other hand you ask the United Nations for recognition.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), meanwhile, accused Abbas of distorting the Palestinians’ history.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks at a conference of local governments in Tel Aviv on February 14, 2018. (Jorge Novominsky)

In his speech, Abbas had said, “We are the descendants of the Canaanites that lived in the land of Palestine 5,000 years ago and continuously remained there to this day.”

“A nation inventing its past has no future,” said Bennett. “The Palestinians’ ancestors may have existed 5,000 years ago, but further south, on the Arab peninsula. I suggest Abbas focus not on building an imaginary past, but rather on creating a practical future.”

From the opposition, Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid accused Abbas of inflating the number of Palestinian refugees, which he had put at 13 million.

“Abu Mazen’s [Abbas] words about refugees in the UN are a baldfaced lie,” Lapid wrote on Twitter. “It doesn’t make sense that the world allows the Palestinians to be the only people in the world whose refugee status is handed down as an inheritance.”

“There are not millions of Palestinian refugees and there never were. Israel will never agree to the right of return,” added Lapid.

However, not all  Israeli politicians criticized the speech. Zehava Galon, chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party, praised Abbas’s suggestion of an international peace conference, but said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be unable to agree to a deal.

“In any other situation I’d say that Mahmoud Abbas’s proposal for an international peace conference was a good idea, but the prime minister of Israel is a person who does not have a mandate to return territories,” Galon tweeted. “But it’s always fun to see [Israel’s UN] Ambassador [Danny] Danon blaming Abbas for refusing peace, a week after Netanyahu announced he was working to annex the territories.”

In his speech, Abbas had called for a “multilateral international mechanism” to pave the way for Palestinian statehood, while accusing Israel and the United States of obstructing peace efforts.

“To solve the Palestine question, it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference,” the PA president said, adding that he anticipated a summit by mid-2018.

The Palestinian Authority leader immediately left the council chamber following his address, leaving Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon to complain that he was once again “running away” from dialogue.

“You have made it clear, with your words and with your actions, that you are no longer part of the solution. You are the problem,” Danon said.

AFP contributed to this report.


US peace envoy blasts Abbas for failure to mention Jerusalem’s Jewish connection — Trump: “Jerusalem is today, and must remain, a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the Stations of the Cross, and where Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

February 8, 2018

Times of Israel

Jason Greenblatt says denying ‘Judaism’s thousands of years of ties’ to the city isn’t conducive to lasting peace

February 7, 2018
US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt attends a press conference regarding the water agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on July 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt attends a press conference regarding the water agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on July 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

American Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt on Thursday slammed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for failing to mention Judaism’s connection to Jerusalem in a speech this week.

Speaking at the Jerusalem Capital of Muslim Youth 2018 festival in Ramallah on Tuesday, Abbas repeatedly emphasized that Jerusalem was a city for Muslims and Christians, without mentioning any of the city’s extensive Jewish history.

“Pres. Abbas states about Jerusalem: ‘it is Arab, Muslim, and Christian.’ And makes no mention of any Jewish ties. Nothing peaceful or productive can come from statements like this,” Greenblatt said in a series of tweets.

“Lasting peace will not be achieved by denying Judaism’s thousands of years of ties to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is holy to Muslims, Christians, and Jews,” the US envoy added, recalling President Donald Trump’s recognition in December of the city as Israel’s capital.

Peace can ONLY be based on truth, and what @POTUS said is the truth: “Jerusalem is today, and must remain, a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the Stations of the Cross, and where Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa Mosque.” (3/3)

In announcing his decision, Trump also declared he’d move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move angered the Palestinian leadership, which declared that Washington could no longer fill the decisive role in the peace process it has held for over two decades.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

In the many speeches Abbas has given about Jerusalem since Trump’s controversial decision, he has usually emphasized the Muslim and Christian connection to the holy city, while at the same time promising that should Jerusalem come under Palestinian control, it would be open to freedom of worship for all religions, including for Jews.

On Tuesday, however, he left out his oft-repeated promise to allow Jews to pray in a Palestinian-controlled Jerusalem.

“This land is an Islamic and Christian land, by all standards. Jerusalem is the eternal Palestinian capital of Muslim youths; it is also the capital of Christian youths,” said the PA president.

Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas (C) attends the “Jerusalem Conference as the Capital of the Islamic Youth” in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 6, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

The Palestinian population is largely Muslim but also has a sizable Christian minority.

Greenblatt has come under fire from PA officials, who called him an “American Zionist” for his defense of the US Jerusalem policy as well as his own criticism of the PA for boycotting US efforts to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“Greenblatt does not care about the Palestinians’ opinion,” the PA foreign ministry said on Monday. “His remarks show that he does not believe that the Palestinians are party to the political process.”

Referring to the Trump administration’s peace plan, whose details have yet to be announced, the PA ministry claimed that it bypasses the Palestinians.

“If Greenblatt wants to open channels between Israel and some Arab countries, while excluding the Palestinians, we emphasize that no one in the region would dare to accept such an American plan that drops the Palestinian dimension or gives up Jerusalem,” it said. “For this reason, we believe that the plan of Greenblatt and his Zionist group is doomed to failure.”

Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

A violent storm is brewing in Israel’s West Bank (The post-Abbas era is shaping up to be tumultuous)

February 7, 2018

With Palestinians losing faith in their leaders and lionizing terrorists, the post-Abbas era is shaping up to be tumultuous

Times of Israel, February 7, 2018


IDF troops operate in the Jenin area on February 3, 2018 in pursuit of Ahmed Jarrar, a suspect in the killing of Rabbi Raziel Shevach. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF troops operate in the Jenin area on February 3, 2018 in pursuit of Ahmed Jarrar, a suspect in the killing of Rabbi Raziel Shevach. (Israel Defense Forces)

The stabbing attack Wednesday morning near Karmei Tzur, as well as the rioting in recent days in Jenin, Burkin and, mainly, Tuesday night in Nablus, reveal a great deal about the prevailing winds in the West Bank. These are reminiscent of the fateful days of December 1987 and October 2000, when the first and second intifadas broke out.

As IDF troops continued their manhunt on Tuesday in Nablus for the suspected murderer of Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal in Ariel, soldiers came face to face with some 500 violent protesters, according to Israeli estimates, in a clash that left one Palestinian dead and 45 wounded.

Similar, though smaller, violent clashes were seen in recent days in Yamoun, Burkin and Jenin, all surrounding attempts to capture the terrorist Ahmad Jarrar, the suspected murderer of Rabbi Raziel Shevach in an attack in Havat Gilad last month. In the wake of that attack, as IDF soldiers launched raid after raid in search of the elusive Jarrar, his fame grew in the West Bank. By the time Israeli special forces finally reached him in Yamoun before dawn on Tuesday, he had become a hero to Palestinians throughout the West Bank.

Jarrar’s visage can be found seemingly on every other account in Palestinian social media. For his supporters, his heroism was twofold: He managed not only to kill a settler, but also to become a kind of superhero for his apparently preternatural ability to evade Israeli forces time and again.

IDF soldiers search for Abed al-Karim Assi, suspected of stabbing an Israeli man to death, in the village of Kifl Haris in the northern West Bank, February 5, 2018. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Despite Israeli assertions that Jarrar was killed in Yamoun, many Palestinians are refusing to believe he is truly dead, with many arguing that he escaped yet again.

In the end, Jarrar and the suspected Ariel terrorist, Abed al-Karim Assi, have become role models for many Palestinian youth. Assi, who in better days might have been sent to a home for at-risk youth, or for teens with serious emotional and family troubles, filled the vacuum left by Jarrar after his death. That, at least, is how the Palestinian public, especially young people, now see him.

Violent protests involving hundreds, and many dozens hurt, in multiple locations throughout the West Bank, may be a sign of things to come as the reign of 82-year-old Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas comes to an end. In many ways, the calm that has largely marked his leadership has already begun to crumble.

A structure in Jenin is demolished by Israeli security forces during an operation to arrest Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, the alleged killer of Rabbi Raziel Shevach (IDF)

To be sure, the sense of the dawning of something new and unpredictable is not felt everywhere. In Ramallah on Tuesday, business continued as usual. Palestinian Authority security forces kept order, and the city’s iconic Manara Square suffered from the usual debilitating traffic jams. Even so, in off-record conversations in Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem with sources who are thought to be good gauges of public opinion, the despair comes through, the worry over the direction in which young Palestinians are headed.

Everyone knows that the Abbas era is all but over; they’re just waiting for him to actually leave. No one knows exactly what the “day after” will look like, but there is a general consensus that it will be violent and tumultuous. Abbas’s regime is viewed with open hostility, and Hamas is gaining support.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recites a prayer prior to chairing a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 3, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

On Tuesday, the Associated Press published a strange report: Top Fatah official Tawfiq Tirawi, the PA’s West Bank intelligence chief from 1994 to 2008, is suing the Palestinian Authority over a reported years-long policy of mass surveillance by its security services against leaders of Fatah and, of course, Hamas. Among the names targeted by PA intelligence are no small number of potential candidates to succeed Abbas: Mahmoud al-Aloul, Marwan Barghouti, associates of Mohammad Dahlan, and many officials from Hamas.

A Palestinian friend who met this reporter in Ramallah on Tuesday joked that “every word you say here is recorded, so be careful.” It wasn’t entirely a joke.

Abed al-Karim Assi in a Facebook post from December 30, 2017. (Screen capture: Facebook)

Those revelations only add to the disgust among Palestinians with their leadership and the PA, and suggest these institutions may not be able to ensure calm after Abbas steps down. The stage has been set for a full-fledged war of succession between the various heads of Fatah and the PA, all while the Palestinian public is shedding any allegiance it once had to its leaders. The coming domestic strife is almost certain to spill over into acts of serious violence against Israelis.

Some on the Israeli right argue that annexing the West Bank would deal a death knell to Palestinian hopes for a state there, and so permanently end the violent efforts by resistance groups. But even as proposals for annexation are bandied about in Jerusalem, and with Palestinian leadership seems intent on demonstrating to its people its own inability to bring them statehood, there is a storm brewing on the horizon. For Israel, that should be a source of grave worry.


Trump administration trying to depose the Palestinian leadership in a “coup” — Saeb Erekat

February 4, 2018

Top PLO official rails against the Trump administration for criticisms of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, but insists Palestinians are not looking for confrontation with US

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat in his Ramallah office, November 23, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat in his Ramallah office, November 23, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat on Saturday accused the Trump administration of trying depose the Palestinian leadership in a “coup” and told the “impudent” US envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley she should “shut up” with her criticism of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Erekat, who has led the Palestinian peace negotiations and is secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, singled out Haley, who slammed Abbas for a recent speech that was full of anti-Semitic tropes.

Erekat said that Haley’s “impudence” has gone as far as calling for removing Abbas from power.

“She called for overthrowing the democratically elected Palestinian president,” Erekat complained in an interview with the Palestinian Al-Watan Voice news website.

“This is the president who led the peace process and promoted the principle of the two-state solution,” Erekat said, referring to Abbas. “Now this [US] ambassador is accusing him of lacking courage, and is calling for replacing him.”

Only the Palestinian people have that right, he said. “The Palestinian people are loyal to their martyrs, prisoners, wounded, struggles, steadfastness, and heroism. This is the reality. The Palestinians are the only ones who are entitled to hold their leaders accountable.”

Erekat was reacting to a speech given by Haley to the UN on January 25.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during a UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East on December 18, 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York. (AFP Photo/Kena Betancur)

“President Abbas declared the landmark Oslo Peace Accords dead. He rejected any American role in peace talks. He insulted the American President. He called for suspending recognition of Israel. He invoked an ugly and fictional past, reaching back to the 17th century to paint Israel as a colonialist project engineered by European powers,” Haley said.

“A speech that indulges in outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories is not the speech of a person with the courage and the will to seek peace,” she said.

“I ask here today, where is the Palestinian King Hussein? Where is the Palestinian Anwar Sadat,” she said, referring to the Jordanian and Egyptian leaders who made peace with Israel. “If President Abbas demonstrates he can be that type of leader, we would welcome it. His recent actions demonstrate the total opposite.”

Erekat insisted that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, together with Haley’s remarks, amounted to an attempt to stage a “coup” against the “Palestinian political system.”

“Nikki Haley needs to shut up and realize that the Palestinian leadership is not the problem,” the top PLO official added. “Instead, the problem is the Israeli occupation and the policies it continues to pursue. I’m not saying that we don’t make mistakes; every society and every government makes mistakes.”

Erekat said the goal of Israel and the US was to “undermine the Palestinian national project.”

“US and Israeli officials are saying that any Palestinian leader who insists on East Jerusalem becoming the capital of Palestine and is committed to the right of return, in accordance with United Nations resolution 194, should be removed from power and replaced,” he said.

The US and Israel are searching for Palestinian leaders who will accept the “liquidation of the Palestinian national project,”  Erekat said.

“The Palestinian leadership has told the Americans and Israelis that, even after 1,000 years, they will not find any Palestinian who will collaborate with their scheme,” Erekat said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C-R) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Abbas Momani)

The Palestinians, Erekat stressed, are determined to pursue diplomatic efforts at the UN Security Council and other international forums in response to the policies of the Trump administration.

“We will take Trump’s decision [to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel] to the International Court of Justice and we will seek membership in more international agencies,” he said.

In the wake of the recognition, formally declared by President Donald Trump on December 6, the Palestinians have said the US cannot be an honest broker in the peace talks and have refused to meet with US officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the region last month.

Nevertheless, Erekat insisted that the Palestinians were not looking for a fight with the US.

“We don’t seek a confrontation or a fight with the US administration,” Erekat said. “On the contrary — they are the ones taking several steps. The US administration is itself saying that it’s not an honest broker in the peace process. Therefore, we are seeking, together with international parties, to convene an international conference for peace.”