Abbas warns of unspecified 'tough steps' against Israel, US
RAMALLAH: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday told the PLO parliament, which was meeting for its first full session since the 1990s, that he plans to take unspecified "tough steps" soon against Israel and the United States.
Abbas told hundreds of delegates that he is sticking to his rejection of any US proposals for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal following the Trump administration's recognition in December of contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital and a decision to move the US Embassy there in mid-May.
"This is completely unacceptable," he told the Palestinian National Council members during the opening of their four-day meeting in the West Bank. "We will not accept this deal, and we will not accept the US as the sole broker."
Abbas appeared to dismiss media reports quoting Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as saying the Palestinians should stop complaining and accept what they are being offered by the Trump administration.
Abbas did not refer to those reports specifically, but said he has been assured that Saudi Arabia remains supportive of the Palestinian positions. "We hear lots of rumors," he told the delegates. "Don't believe them."
The 83-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.
In rambling comments bound to trigger a backlash in Israel, Abbas also spoke about his views of history, portraying the creation of Israel as a European colonial project.
"The truth is that this project is a colonial project aimed at planting foreign bodies in the region," he said. "But this does not mean we should uproot them. We should co-exist with them on the basis of a two-state solution."
He also talked about what he believes are the causes of 20th century anti-Semitism in Europe, saying these views are based on books by Jewish writers. "The conclusion of these books is that animosity toward Jews was not because of their religion, but because of their social activities," including money-lending, he said.
The meeting of the PLO parliament comes at a time of deep divisions between Abbas and his domestic rival, the Islamic militant group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip.
Hamas has raised its leadership profile in recent weeks by organizing mass protests on the Gaza border with Israel. In the weekly marches, thousands of Palestinians gather near the border fence, with smaller groups approaching the barrier, throwing stones or firebombs and burning tires.
Thirty-nine protesters have been killed and more than 1,700 wounded by Israeli army fire over the past month. Israel, which has come under mounting international criticism for the use of lethal force against unarmed protesters, says it has the right to defend its border and alleges that Hamas uses the protests as cover for attacks.
Abbas praised the "brothers in Hamas" for belatedly adopting what he called peaceful resistance.
"Thank God, they (Hamas) finally agreed and this is effective," he said, while urging organizers to keep people away from the border fence because of the high risk of harm.
Some Hamas leaders have suggested there would be an eventual mass breach of the border as protests continue.
Despite the rare praise for his rivals, Abbas posed tough conditions for ending the internal political rift that broke open in 2007, when Hamas drove Abbas-loyal forces from Gaza a year after winning Palestinian parliament elections. Since the takeover, Israel and Egypt have enforced a devastating border blockade on Gaza.
Egyptian mediators have proposed that the internationally backed Abbas assume government responsibilities in Gaza as a way of ending the blockade. Abbas said Monday that he will do so only if Hamas hands over all authority — an unlikely prospect since the militant group refuses to give up control over its weapons.
"Either they give us everything or they take everything," Abbas said of Hamas.
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 rubber-stamp any decisions by Abbas.
The elections, tightly controlled by Abbas, are expected to install a new group of loyalists in the committee.