Middle East

Palestine refuses peace talks until Trump reverses US embassy’s move to Jerusalem

To enter peace talks would be to accept the US’s acknowledgement of the whole of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Palestine Liberation Organisation said

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 January, 2018, 12:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 January, 2018, 6:00am

Discussions with the Trump administration will be stalled until the US’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is reversed, said Palestine’s top negotiator.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem - effectively backing Israel’s disputed claim to East Jerusalem - was “part of a new American era of moving from negotiation to dictation.”

Asked whether there can be any contact with US President Donald Trump’s administration if the Jerusalem decision is not reversed, Erekat said: “How can you?”

“You heard what President Trump said in Davos. He said: ‘We took Jerusalem off the table,’” Erekat continued. 

“The minute any Palestinian goes and meets with American officials, it is an acceptance of their decision. Now they are threatening us with money, with aid.

“They promised not to impose any solution, and now they want the meeting for the sake of the meeting.”

Trump threatens to cut Palestinian aid without negotiations; they say so what?

Erekat said it was as if they were telling the Palestinians, “Come here boy, we know what’s good for you.”

Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital set off protests among Palestinians, who consider the city to be their capital as well.

Erekat’s comments came with rhetoric further sharpening between Trump’s White House and the Palestinians, who have said the United States can no longer mediate in the Middle East conflict and boycotted a recent visit by US Vice President Mike Pence.

Last week, Trump accused Palestine of disrespecting the United States and threatened to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in aid until they returned to the negotiating table.

Palestinians react to Trump’s ‘blackmail’ over Jerusalem

Provoking Palestinian outrage, he reaffirmed his Jerusalem decision and said the disputed city had been taken “off the table”, despite having previously said his recognition did not preclude later negotiations on its borders.

Trump made the comments in Davos, Switzerland, while seated next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to Erekat, the Palestinians – faced with what they see as a blatantly biased US administration – are aiming to convene an international conference in an effort to show global support for a two-state solution to the conflict.

Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the most sensitive issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel sees the entire city as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, a move never recognised by the international community.

Trump’s unilateral recognition broke with decades of international consensus that the city’s status must be negotiated between the two sides.

Palestinian president rejects Trump peace plan as ‘slap of the century’

The US leader says he still intends to reach what he has called the “ultimate deal” – Israeli-Palestinian peace – but Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has called his efforts the “slap of the century”.

The Trump administration also hit out at Abbas last week, with UN ambassador Nikki Haley saying he lacked the courage needed for a peace deal.

Erekat likened her comments to a call for a “coup d’etat”.