US administration officials who purportedly claim to want to improve the living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are “liars,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday.
Abbas, who was speaking at the opening session of the PLO Central Council in Ramallah, also vowed to pursue efforts to thwart US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-unveiled plan for peace in the Middle East and the Jewish Nation-State Law.
He also pledged to continue payments to Palestinian security prisoners and families of “martyrs” killed while carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel.
Referring to Trump’s unseen plan, which is also known as the “Deal of the Century,” Abbas said: “We were the first to fight against it and we will continue to fight against it until it falls. This is the ‘slap of the century.’”
Abbas said that the two-day PLO conference, which was launched in Ramallah on Wednesday evening, will discuss Trump’s upcoming plan, the “racist” Nation-State Law and other Israeli measures, including the decision to demolish the Bedouin shantytown of Khan al-Ahmar east of Ma’aleh Adumim and relocate its residents to near Jericho.
Abbas urged Palestinians to continue with their protests against the decision to evict the residents of Khan al-Ahmar and to “stop the Zionists from fulfilling their wishes.”
He added: “We must stand with the residents of Khan al-Ahmar day and night, and not only with words, but also with popular resistance. We want to win in Khan al-Ahmar as we won with the metal detectors.”
Abbas was referring to Israel’s decision last year to install metal detectors at the gates of the Temple Mount after a terrorist attack in which two policemen were killed at the holy site. The metal detectors were removed following strong protests by the Palestinians.
Abbas strongly condemned the Nation-State Law enacted July 19, and praised Jews who were also protesting against the legislation.
Abbas defended his decision to continue payments to Palestinian security prisoners and families of “martyrs” in spite of Israeli and US objections. “Israel considers them criminals and wants them to starve to death,” he said in reference to the security prisoners.
He said that the PA won’t allow Israel to deduct the payments from tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinians. The payments, he added, will continue “even if we have to cut from our flesh in order to help our people.” He claimed that convicted Jewish murderers, including former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, were enjoying various privileges in prison.
On the issue of “national reconciliation,” Abbas said that Hamas had no desire to end the rivalry with his Fatah faction. He claimed that unnamed parties were “encouraging” Hamas not to reach a deal with Fatah. The only solution to the crisis in the Gaza Strip, he added, lies in Hamas’s agreement to hand full control over the Gaza Strip to the PA government.
Abbas said that there should be no room for militias in the Gaza Strip, where there should be only “one government, one law and one security force.” He scoffed at recent proposals by top Trump administration officials to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, adding: “The US has now woken up to defend and support our people. They are liars,” he charged.
Meanwhile, Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction on Wednesday criticized the current discussions in Cairo aimed at reaching a truce between Hamas and Israel and said the PLO, and not any other Palestinian group, was the only party authorized to make such a deal.
“The truce is a national, and not factional, deed,” said Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah and PLO official. “Any negotiations about a truce should be conducted in the name of the PLO.”
His remarks came as representatives of several Gaza-based Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, arrived in Cairo in the past 48 hours for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials regarding a long-term truce with Israel.
The Cairo talks are also aimed at exploring the possibility of ending the continued power struggle between Fatah and Hamas.
Palestinian sources said that in light of the continued tensions between Hamas and Fatah, the talks concerning “national reconciliation between the two rival parties may be delayed until the end of this month.”
The Palestinian factions visiting Cairo were scheduled to hold meetings Wednesday evening with senior officials of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service to discuss the truce with Israel. Unconfirmed reports said the Egyptians may invite Fatah officials to participate in the discussions later this week. Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel may visit Ramallah to brief PA leaders on the outcome of the discussions, the reports said.
“What is happening between Hamas and Israel is not negotiations,” Ahmed said in an interview with the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station. “This is a festival to announce the [truce] agreement.”
He said that he had asked the Egyptians to avoid a situation where a truce agreement would be announced during the conference of the PLO Central Council.
The Palestinian leadership, Ahmed said, “does not have time for such useless festivals.” He also pointed out that not all the Palestinian factions were participating in the Cairo truce discussions.
Ahmed said that Palestinians had never heard of the names of some of the groups that were summoned to Cairo for the truce talks. He was apparently referring to the hitherto unknown groups called al-Ahrar and al-Mujahideen, whose representatives are said to be participating in the truce discussions in Cairo.
The senior Fatah official’s remarks are seen as explicit criticism of Egypt’s role in trying to broker a cease-fire between the Gaza-based terror groups and Israel. Fatah argues that such a deal would undermine the status of the PLO as the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinians. It also fears that a truce agreement would serve to embolden Hamas and enable it to tighten its grip on the Gaza Strip.
Commenting on a recent Egyptian proposal to resolve the ongoing dispute between Hamas and Fatah, Ahmed claimed that his faction had accepted the initiative. Hamas, he said, has rejected the Egyptian proposal after “holding consultations in Istanbul, Turkey.
However, Hamas leaders have repeatedly said in recent weeks that they have responded positively to the Egyptian proposal.
Hamas told the Egyptians that its leaders want to go to Istanbul to study the proposal, the Fatah official said. “Later, they informed the Egyptians of their rejection of the proposal,” Ahmed added.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in response that the Palestinian groups that were holding talks in Cairo about a truce with Israel were more legitimate than the Fatah-dominated PLO Central Council gathering in Ramallah.
Abu Zuhri said that the fact that several Palestinian factions were boycotting the PLO conference “reflected Fatah’s state of political isolation and breakdown.”