World News

Abbas Calls Oslo Accords Dead and Blasts U.S.: ‘Damn Your Money!’

Posted January 14, 2018 8:11 p.m. EST

RAMALLAH, West Bank — President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority said Sunday that Israel had killed the Oslo Accords and angrily assailed the Trump administration over its handling of the conflict. He vowed to reject U.S. leadership of any peace talks and urged Palestinians to reconsider their signed agreements with Israel.

“We will not accept for the U.S. to be a mediator, because after what they have done to us — a believer shall not be stung twice in the same place,” Abbas said.

“The deal of the century is the slap of the century,” he added, mocking the still-undefined peace initiative the Trump administration has been working on and promoting in the region. “However, we’ll get back at them.”

Abbas, 82, stopped well short of embracing an alternative to a two-state solution, the project around which he has built his career. The number of Israelis and Palestinians who hold out hope that such a solution can be achieved is dwindling, but Abbas said nothing about abandoning it.

He also shied away from urging the kind of provocative acts, like ending the Palestinian Authority’s security cooperation with Israel or disbanding the authority itself, that could raise the costs of occupation for Israel and shake officials in Jerusalem and Washington.

Indeed, Abbas, who reaffirmed his commitment to nonviolence and stopping terrorism, seemed to hold out hope of a return to negotiations — but with someone other than the United States leading the way.

“Israel has killed Oslo. It has terminated Oslo,” Abbas said. “Now we are an authority without any authority, and an occupation without land, and we will not accept this.”

In a two-hour-plus speech opening a two-day gathering of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council, its second-highest-ranking body, Abbas delivered broadsides against Hamas, other Arab leaders and Britain. But he reserved his most scathing words for President Donald Trump; the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley; and its ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.

He attacked Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in defiance of international consensus and long-standing U.S. policy; for later declaring, in a Twitter post, that the city’s status was “off the table”; for threatening to close the PLO’s mission in Washington; and for threatening to cut U.S. aid to the Palestinians.

“Damn your money!” Abbas said of Trump. “He said, ‘I will give you a peace deal.’ The deal turned out to be a mess. He said, ‘We will not pay for the Palestinians because they stopped the negotiations.’ Where are the negotiations?” Abbas also confirmed a recent New York Times report that the Palestinians had been told they would be offered the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis, which they control, as the capital of a future state.

“We are in a fateful moment of history,” Abbas said, adding scornfully: “If we lose Jerusalem, what do you want to do? Have a state with Abu Dis as its capital? This is what they’re offering now: Abu Dis.”

Abbas said Friedman, a staunch backer of Israeli settlements on the West Bank before becoming ambassador, had objected to the word occupation out of a conviction that Israel could not occupy its own land, and had asked the State Department to avoid using the word.

“They asked me to meet him,” Abbas said. “I said: ‘Him? No, I won’t meet him.’ Not here, not outside the country, in Amman or Washington. I will not meet this man.”

He also called it “shameful” of Haley to threaten countries that voted in the U.N. General Assembly last month to declare Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital “null and void.” The measure passed 128-9 with 35 countries abstaining.

“I hope she hears me,” Abbas said, adding, in reference to Haley’s suggestion early last year that she wore heels to kick Israel’s enemies: “Our reaction will be worse, but not with high heels.”

“These two are a disgrace to any administration who respects itself, if it wanted to respect itself,” Abbas added.

The Palestinian Central Council is expected to make recommendations for a change in strategy, but those will be nonbinding. A similar meeting in 2015 resulted in a call to end security cooperation with Israel, but Abbas ignored it.

Addressing hundreds of PLO members, Abbas urged the council to emphasize unification talks aimed at bringing Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, into the Palestinian fold. “A state without Gaza is not possible,” he said. “A state in Gaza is not possible.”

He advocated convening the Palestinian National Council, the PLO’s legislative body, which elects the group’s Executive Committee and last met in 2009. “The PLO has to be renovated, has to be refreshed,” he said.

And he called on Central Council members to review the group’s various pacts with Israel, “because the Israeli government has led us to a stalemate, so these agreements need to be revisited in line with international laws and resolutions, to protect our legitimate rights.” Abbas spent considerable time early in his speech criticizing Hamas and Islamic Jihad for refusing to send representatives to the gathering in Ramallah. A Hamas spokesman said it should have been held in another country to ensure the participation of representatives from Hamas and other factions.

Testing his audience’s attention, Abbas also gave a lengthy history lecture reaching back to the 17th century, saying that Oliver Cromwell had first proposed shipping European Jews to the Holy Land, before tracing the beginning of Zionism to what he called the 19th-century journalist and activist Theodor Herzl’s efforts to “wipe out Palestinians from Palestine.”

“This is a colonial enterprise that has nothing to do with Jewishness,” Abbas said. “The Jews were used as a tool under the concept of the promised land — call it whatever you want. Everything has been made up.”

Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Trump administration officials offered any immediate response.

But Oded Revivi, a spokesman for the Yesha Council, which represents 450,000 Israeli settlers on the West Bank, said, “If the Oslo process is dead, as suggested by Abbas, it would follow that the Palestinian Authority and its leadership are irrelevant.”

“It’s time,” Revivi said, “to find alternative Palestinian leaders and alternative peace plans that focus on building bridges between real people on the ground instead of making people like Abbas rich and famous.”