Palestinian leader denounces Donald Trump’s diplomacy as 'slap of the century'

Mahmoud Abbas condemned the US president in an address to the Palestinian Central Council

Caroline Mortimer
Sunday 14 January 2018 20:38
Mahmoud Abbas attacked Donald Trump during an address to the Palestinian Central Council on Sunday
Mahmoud Abbas attacked Donald Trump during an address to the Palestinian Central Council on Sunday

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has denounced Donald Trump’s policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the “slap of the century”.

In a fiery speech to the Palestinian Central Council, a decision-making body, on Sunday, Mr Abbas criticised Mr Trump and his policies towards the Palestinians.

Mr Abbas expressed fury over the decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying “shame on you” for the US President’s treatment of the Palestinians.

He said: “Jerusalem was removed from the table by a tweet of Mr Trump.

“Our eternal capital is Jerusalem, and we will not accept what is being offered to us to make Abu Dis the capital of Palestine instead of the city of Jerusalem.”

He criticised Mr Trump’s attitude towards the peace process as a “slap in the face” but warned “we slap back”, Haaretz reported.

Mr Trump was condemned by the international community for announcing that the US would be moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a de facto recognition of the Israel claim that Jerusalem is the “undivided capital” of their country.

Prime Minister Theresa May said the decision was “unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region” while French President Emmanuel Macron said the move was a “threat to peace”.

The majority of the international community, including the UK, have their embassies in Tel Aviv as the Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as the capital of their state.

The eastern portion of the city was captured by the Israeli Defensive Force (IDF) during the Six Days War in June 1967 and now forms part of the West Bank.

The international community regards the West Bank and Gaza as occupied territories and has said the status of Jerusalem, one of the most contentious parts of the conflict, should be decided towards the end of the peace talks.

Mr Abbas also condemned Mr Trump for claiming that the Palestinians refused to restart peace talks. He said the Palestinians remain committed to negotiations, but are ready to reject what they fear will be an unfair proposal from the White House.

He previously said he would reject any peace deal which was drawn up by the Americans as Palestinians believe Washington’s neutrality is compromised.

The Trump administration is preparing to withhold tens of millions of dollars from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, cutting the year’s first contribution by more than half or perhaps entirely, and making additional donations contingent on major changes to the organisation, according to US officials.

Mr Trump hasn’t made a final decision, but appears more likely to send only $60 million of the planned $125 million first instalment to the UN Relief and Works Agency, said the officials, who weren’t authorised to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The administration could announce its decision as early as Tuesday, the officials said. The plan to withhold some of the money is backed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis, who offered it as a compromise to demands for more drastic measures by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, the officials said.

Ms Haley wants a complete cutoff in US money until the Palestinians resume peace talks with Israel that have been frozen for years. But Mr Tillerson, General Mattis and others say ending all assistance would exacerbate instability in the Middle East, notably in Jordan, a host to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and a crucial US strategic partner.

Additional reporting by agencies