Palestinian president says he has cut all ties with Israel, US

Palestinian president says Israel will have to "bear responsibility as an occupying power" for the Palestinian territories after its "disavowal" of signed agreements.

JERUSALEM - The Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel including security relations after rejecting a Middle East peace plan presented this week by US President Donald Trump, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday.

At a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, Abbas reiterated his "complete" rejection of Trump's peace plan, which calls for creating a demilitarized Palestinian state with fragmented borders drawn to meet the aspirations of Israel.

"We've informed the Israeli side...that there will be no relations at all with them and the United States including security ties," Abbas told the one-day extraordinary session to discuss Trump's plan. He added that the US plan was in "violation of the (autonomy) accords" launched in Oslo in 1993 by Israel and the Palestinians.

The Trump initiative would allow Israel to annex all its Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank — which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as illegal — as well as a large swathe of territory along the border with Jordan.

In return, the Palestinians would be granted statehood in Gaza, scattered chunks of the West Bank and some neighborhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem, all linked together by a new network of roads, bridges and tunnels. Israel would control the state’s borders and airspace and maintain overall security authority.

Critics of the plan say this would rob Palestinian statehood of any meaning, likening it to the system of bantustans used in apartheid-era South Africa. The plan would also abolish the right of return for Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 war and their descendants, a key pillar of the Palestinian national struggle.

Dustbin of history

Abbas told the meeting of the Arab League that the decision to cut ties follows the US and Israel's "disavowal of signed agreements and international legitimacy".

Israel will have to "bear responsibility as an occupying power" for the Palestinian territories, Abbas said, adding that Palestinians will press ahead with their legitimate struggle using peaceful means. Israeli officials had no immediate comment on his remarks.

The Western-backed Palestinian leadership has been under mounting pressure from ordinary Palestinians and its political rivals in the Islamist militant group Hamas to cut off security ties with Israel and the US, or even dismantle the increasingly unpopular Palestinian Authority.

That would leave Israel responsible for the complicated and expensive task of providing basic services to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank.

The Palestinians have made such threats in the past without acting on them. But this time might be different, especially if Israel proceeds with annexation of its West Bank settlements — which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as illegal — as well as the fertile Jordan Valley, which accounts for roughly a fourth of the West Bank.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority's security forces have long cooperated in policing areas of the occupied West Bank that are under Palestinian control. The PA also has intelligence cooperation agreements with the CIA, which continued even after the Palestinians began boycotting the Trump administration's peace efforts in 2017.

Abbas also said he had refused to discuss with Trump his plan by phone or to receive even a copy of it to study it.

"Trump asked that I speak to him by phone but I said no, and that he wants to send me a letter...but I refused it," he said.

The Palestinian leader said he refused to take Trump's phone calls and messages “because I know that he would use that to say he consulted us.”

“I will never accept this solution," Abbas said. “I will not have it recorded in my history that I have sold Jerusalem."

Under the plan, Israel would retain control of the contested city of Jerusalem as its "undivided capital". Trump said Palestinians would be allowed to declare a capital within the town of Abu Dis, near Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem which contains sites that Palestinians consider crucial to their national identity.

Palestinian leaders have rejected the deal, saying it deserved to go in the "dustbin of history". Abbas said Palestinians would no longer accept the US as a sole mediator in any negotiations with Israel. He said they would go to the United Nations Security Council and other world and regional organizations to “explain our position."

Satisfactory solution

Abbas received a long applause from the Arab foreign ministers in attendance after his speech. The Arab League’s head, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, said the proposal revealed a “sharp turn” in the long-standing US foreign policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This turn does not help achieve peace and a just solution,” he declared.

Aboul-Gheit said that the Palestinians reject the proposal. He called for the two sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to negotiate to reach a “satisfactory solution for both of them.”

In a statement released after the emergency meeting, Arab states vowed "not to ... cooperate with the US administration to implement this plan." They insisted on a two-state solution that includes a Palestinian state based on borders before the 1967 Six-Day War - when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza - and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Although the reaction from most Arabs to the Trump initiative has been largely negative, officials from governments allied with the US have seemed to take a more conciliatory stance.

Some Gulf states have also sought to forge closer ties with Israel in recent years over a shared animosity towards the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman attended the Tuesday unveiling in Washington, in a tacit sign of support for the US initiative. The foreign minister of the UAE later shared an article on his official Twitter account that seemed to blame Palestinians for the failure to reach a peace deal.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Arab states that are close US allies, said they appreciated President Trump’s efforts and called for renewed negotiations without commenting on the plan’s content.

Egypt urged in a statement Israelis and Palestinians to “carefully study” the plan. It said it favors a solution that restores all the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinian people through establishing an “independent and sovereign state on the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The Egyptian statement did not mention the long-held Arab demand of East Jerusalem as a capital to the future Palestinian state, as Cairo usually has its statements related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Jordan, meanwhile, warned against any Israeli “annexation of Palestinian lands” and reaffirmed its commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, which would include all the West Bank and Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries that have peace treaties with Israel.