Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to cut security ties with Israel

Decision announced at Arab League meeting to discuss US peace plan that has enraged Palestinians

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas holds a placard showing maps of (L to R) historical Palestine, the 1947 United Nations partition plan on Palestine, the 1948-1967 borders between the Palestinian territories and Israel, and a current map of the Palestinian territories without Israeli-annexed areas and settlements, as he attends an Arab League emergency meeting discussing the US-brokered proposal for a settlement of the Middle East conflict at the league headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on February 1, 2020.  / AFP / Khaled DESOUKI

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday he intended to sever all ties with Israel and the United States over an American Middle East peace plan that is widely seen to favour Israel and impose near impossible conditions on the creation of a Palestinian state.

As expected, a resolution by the Arab League meeting also rejected the US plan, saying Arab states will not co-operate with the US to implement it.

The plan, it said, was unjust and constituted a setback to three decades of peace efforts. It would not be met with success because it violated the “international reference points” for the peace process and did not meet the minimum aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Mr Abbas, addressing an emergency meeting of the Arab League’s foreign ministers in Cairo, said he had conveyed his decision to both the Americans and the Israelis, but did not say when it would be implemented.

“I have sent a message to the American and Israeli sides saying there will no longer be any ties with them, including security ties,” he said in a lengthy address at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo. “We have called for this meeting so that everyone is briefed on our stand on the American plan and to prevent its baptism as a new reference.”

He also said that he had refused to take a call from President Donald Trump or receive a copy of his peace plan.

The long-awaited plan, touted by Mr Trump as the “deal of the century”, was formally unveiled at the White House on Tuesday with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the works for at least three years, the plan embraces Israel’s take on key contentious issues that have derailed past peace efforts, including borders, the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

It attaches tough conditions for granting the Palestinians their hoped-for state. The plan was dubbed by Mr Netanyahu as a “historic breakthrough” equal in significance to his country’s declaration of independence in 1948. Mr Abbas has vowed to resist it, calling it “nonsense”.

epa08182268 Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit (L) and Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas meet in Cairo, Egypt, 31 January 2020, on the eve of an Arab League emergency meeting on the proposed US peace plan.  EPA/Mohamed Elbendary

The ministers also warned Israel against using force to implement the US plan and said Arab nations would hold Washington responsible for the consequences of such moves.

Egypt, which has been directly involved in the Arab-Palestinian issue for the past seven decades, had given a cautious reception to the plan, calling on the Palestinians and the Israelis to resume peace negotiations under Washington’s auspices while expressing its appreciation of President Trump’s efforts to find a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

Addressing Saturday’s meeting, Egypt’s foreign minister said his country stood by a comprehensive settlement that gives the Palestinian an independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

Putting off a just and comprehensive settlement, Sameh Shoukry said, would have “disastrous consequences” for a region already rife with conflicts that threaten stability.

Separately, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, sought to inject a dose of realism into the Arab response to the peace plan, suggesting in a pair of tweets on Saturday that the Palestinians and Israelis must engage in direct negotiations. “What is being offered is a point of departure; that does not necessarily mean accepting it. Politics remains to be the art of the possible.”

“Arab support and belief in the justice of the Palestinian cause are positive assets that can be relied on and should not be squandered,” he wrote. “But that is not enough to change the balance of influence and power.”

Mr Trump's plan  would allow Israel to annex all its West Bank settlements – which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as illegal – as well as the Jordan Valley, which accounts for roughly a fourth of the West Bank.

In return, the Palestinians would be granted statehood in Gaza, scattered chunks of the West Bank and some neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem, all linked by a new network of roads, bridges and tunnels. Israel would control the state's borders and air space and maintain overall security authority. Critics of the plan say this would rob Palestinian statehood of any meaning.

One of the key bones of contention is the plan's classification of Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided capital". Palestinians have long seen the city's eastern sector, which was occupied by Israel in 1967, as the capital of their future state.

Fears of tensions were raised on Friday morning when a group of Palestinians protested at the Al Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem after dawn prayers.

Israeli police "responded and dispersed the gathering," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, adding the protesters had chanted "nationalist" slogans.

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