Abbas warns of unspecified 'tough steps' against Israel, US at top PLO meeting

Abbas warns of unspecified 'tough steps' against Israel, US at top PLO meeting
Speaking at the Palestine National Council's first full session meeting since the 1990s, Abbas rejected the US as a broker for any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
3 min read

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the PLO parliament on Monday that he plans to take "tough steps" soon against Israel and the United States.

Speaking at the Palestine National Council's first full session meeting since the 1990s, Abbas told hundreds of delegates that he rejects US proposals for a peace deal following the Trump administration's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December.

"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."

The 83-year-old Abbas warned that he might "take tough steps in the near future in our relationship with our neighbours (Israel) and the Americans". 

He did not elaborate, but said they would be important and far-reaching.

Abbas also 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 rumours," he told the delegates. "Don't believe them."

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.

Internal rivalry

The meeting of the PLO parliament comes at a time of deep divisions between Abbas and his domestic rival, the Islamist group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has raised its leadership profile in recent weeks by supporting mass protests on the Gaza border with Israel to demand the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

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 organisers to keep people away from the border fence because of the high risk of harm.

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 rubberstamp any decisions by Abbas.

The elections, tightly controlled by Abbas, are expected to install a new group of loyalists in the committee.