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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Palestinian leaders urge Abbas to withdraw recognition of Israel

PLO says full statehood must be sought from the United Nations

Senior Palestinian official Salim Zaanoun reads a statement at the end of a meeting of the Palestinian central council in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Abbas Momani / AFP
Senior Palestinian official Salim Zaanoun reads a statement at the end of a meeting of the Palestinian central council in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Abbas Momani / AFP

Palestinian leaders called on president Mahmoud Abbas on Monday to withdraw recognition of Israel and break off security cooperation, in a move that follows the US government naming Jerusalem the Israeli capital.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) central council declared it should no longer be bound by the 1993 Oslo peace accords and that its leaders will never recognise Israel as a Jewish state, according to a statement released at the end of a two-day conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

It said Palestinians will again seek full statehood recognition from the United Nations.

“The immediate goal is the independence of the state of Palestine, which requires moving from the status of an authority with self-rule to the status of sovereignty”. Palestinians will restore their recognition of Israel when Israel accepts Palestine as a state, it said.

Mr Abbas has cut off diplomatic contact with the US since president Donald Trump said last month that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and that he intends to move the American embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and have long appealed to the US and other nations to resist Israel’s claim to the entire city.

Mr Abbas, who will make the ultimate decision on whether to implement the council’s recommendations, opened the conference on Sunday by declaring that Palestinians will “slap back” at Mr Trump and seek to replace the US with other international players in peace negotiations with Israel.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on a visit to India and did not respond to the PLO council’s action. Earlier, he condemned Mr Abbas’s speech, particularly the Palestinian leader’s assertion that Israel is a “colonial project” that has no real connection to Judaism.

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Mr Abbas “revealed the truth and tore off the mask,” Mr Netanyahu said. He has shown that “the source of the conflict between us and the Palestinians is their refusal to recognise the Jewish state with any borders,” the prime minister said.

Mr Trump said in a Twitter message last week that the US gives the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars each year and gets “no respect or appreciation”. His ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has said the administration is considering a cut in aid to the UN agency that takes care of Palestinian refugees.

The administration is reviewing a proposal to send less than half of a planned $125 million payment and demand that other countries pay more, according to two people familiar with the deliberations.

Secretary of state Rex Tillerson, defence secretary James Mattis and national security adviser HR McMaster support that plan, while Ms Haley and senior White House aide Jared Kushner advocate sending nothing.

Mr Kushner oversees Mr Trump’s peace efforts in the region.

While Mr Trump’s threat to cut the UN funding is popular in Israel, government security officials have warned that reducing the assistance that goes for food, education and health care could fuel violence and strengthen radical Palestinian forces in the West Bank.