Israeli leaders denounce Abbas speech on peace talks

Palestinian president accused by Israelis of abandoning prospect of negotiations

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday. Photograph: Iabbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday. Photograph: Iabbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

 

Israeli leaders have reacted with disdain to angry speech by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in which he denounced Zionism as a colonialist project and made clear he would not accept any peace plan from the US.

Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said Mr Abbas had “lost his senses” and he accused the Palestinian leader of giving up on the prospect of negotiations and opting instead for a confrontation with both Israel and the United States.

Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, described Mr Abbas’s comments as “terrible”.

In his speech on Sunday night to the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s central council, Mr Abbas used sharp rhetoric, denouncing US president Donald Trump over recent policy moves, such as recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and threatening to cut US aid if the Palestinians refused to return to peace talks.

Mr Abbas, addressing Mr Trump, used the phrase “Yehreb Beitak”, which literally translates as “may your house be demolished”. In colloquial Palestinian Arabic, the phrase can have different connotations, from a harsh to a casual insult.

“Since when have we refused to negotiate?” Mr Abbas asked. “We are dedicated to the path of negotiations and peace, but we will not accept dictates that the US wishes to force on us and we will not accept the US as a broker in the peace process after the crime that it committed in Jerusalem.”

‘Deal of the century’

Mr Trump, after assuming the presidency, promised to deliver the “deal of the century” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but Mr Abbas’s speech on Sunday night appears to have left Washington’s peace plans stillborn.

“The deal of the century is the slap of the century and we will not accept it,” Mr Abbas said. “I am saying there is no Oslo. Israel ended Oslo,” in a reference to the Oslo peace accords signed between Israel and the Palestinians in 1993.

Mr Rivlin said Mr Abbas had returned to the ideas he had expressed decades ago, when they were “no less terrible”.

“To say Israel is the result of a western conspiracy to settle Jews in land belonging to Arab populations? To say that that the Jewish people has no connection with the land of Israel? He forgot many things, and said exactly the things that led him to be accused years ago of anti-Semitism,” Mr Rivlin said. “He is rejecting our return to our homeland. Without this basic recognition, we will not be able to build trust and move forward.”

Although US mediators have yet to make public the details of their peace plan, Mr Abbas suggested Palestinians were being offered the village of Abu Dis, outside Jerusalem, as the capital of a future Palestinian state, instead of East Jerusalem, as the Palestinians demand.

A senior official travelling with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in India said Mr Abbas’s speech was “that of a man who has nothing left to lose”.

Mr Abbas “is digging his own grave” and “systematically losing legitimacy around the world,” the official said. “As time goes by, [the seat of the Palestinian Authority] Ramallah is losing the empathy lent to it by the international community. The Americans in particular are furious with him.”