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Abbas to Arab nations: ‘Palestinians face a difficult future. Do not give up on us’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends the opening session of the 30th Arab League Summit in Tunis, Tunisia on 31 March 2019 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends the opening session of the 30th Arab League Summit in Tunis, Tunisia on 31 March 2019 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the Arab League summit held in Tunisia on Sunday: “Difficult days are ahead of the Palestinians.” He called on the Arab countries to activate financial supports to assist the Palestinian Authority through its ongoing crisis caused by Israel’s looting of taxes and the suspension of US assistance directed to the Palestinian people.

Abbas stressed: “We will have to take decisive steps, and we are confident that you will be our true support in the struggle ahead.”

He added: ” We are about to face a period of challenges as Israel, the occupation state, has destroyed all the agreements and renounced all its commitments to Oslo until today. Israel is dismantling the two-state solution through the implementation of destructive policies and procedures, which compelled us to lose hope for peace. We can no longer tolerate or cope with this situation to protect the interests of our people.”

President Abbas highlighted Israel’s practices against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, indicating that “Israel, which continues its settlement activities and plunders our resources, did not stop there. It is cutting off a large proportion of our tax revenues, estimated at 200 million dollars, under the pretext of paying salaries to the families of the captives and the wounded. Such practices, which constitute a breach of the agreements, made us insist on receiving all of our money. We will not abandon our people, especially those who sacrificed for Palestine.”

President Abbas stated that last month Israel, deducted 182 million shekels from tax revenues, and raised the sum this month to reach 192 million shekels, i.e. from 60 million to 65 million shekels, in addition to a commission worth 7 million shekels a month.

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He asserted: “Israel’s control over our funds and the US’s suspension of its financial support, estimated at $844 million a year, are meant to exert pressure on us, in order to force the Palestinian people to give up on our legitimate right in Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Resurrection. However, Jerusalem is not for sale. Palestine will never make sense without having Eastern Jerusalem and its holy sites as its capital.”

Abu Mazen conveyed: “We have taken some austerity measures and will increase domestic production in all sectors. However, in light of this emergency crisis, we call on the Arab states to initiate the resolutions of the previous summits by activating financial safety nets and fulfilling subsequent financial obligations to support the budget of the State of Palestine. We are hopeful that our brothers do not abandon us while we go through our struggle, as the situation is extremely difficult and dangerous.”

In his speech to the Arab League summit, Abu Mazen also declared: “We will continue our efforts to unite our land and our people. We have not stopped paying half of our budget to Gaza. We did not boycott the Gaza Strip, but Israel did. We have made every effort to concretise the Arab and international reconciliation efforts. However, Hamas’s stance is disrupting the rapprochement. In the same context, we value Egypt’s position regarding the issue, as the Egyptian state has submitted a recent initiative agreed upon by Hamas and the Palestinian authority. The accord is still on hold. Hamas does not want reconciliation as frankly confirmed by Netanyahu: ‘The more Hamas receives assistance, the farther we get from reconciliation.’ We need to be aware of this.”

As far as the formation of the government is concerned, President Abbas indicated: “We will have a new government at the middle of the current month that will start preparations for the elections in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza. We hope that such a step will contribute to ending the division by letting the people decide through elections. We address our people in the Gaza Strip that we will not abandon them. We will not accept a state in Gaza or a state without Gaza. We are anticipating that the US will suggest the formation of a state in the Gaza Strip in a month or two.”

Abu Mazen began his speech his speech by discussing the reality of everyday life in Jerusalem, in light of the occupation’s practices aimed at Judaizing the city. He highlighted that “the occupation forces are conducting oppressive practices and arbitrary measures in Jerusalem, to obliterate the identity of the holy city, change its spiritual and historical features, and violate the sanctity of our holy Islamic and Christian sites. The Israeli authorities are imposing restrictions on the city’s locals and visitors, desecrating Al-Aqsa Mosque daily, as in the case of what happened most recently in Bab Al-Rahma. On the other hand, the occupation forces are still digging tunnels, to complete what they call the spatial and temporal division of the Haram Al-Sharif, in addition to assaulting the Church of the Resurrection and its monks.”

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In this regard, Abu Mazen added: “We are in close contact with King Abdullah II, the custodian of Christian and Muslim shrines in Jerusalem and our co-defender of Eastern Jerusalem. On this occasion, we salute the Jordanian Islamic Waqf for its role as the sole supervisor of Al-Aqsa Mosque. We are working together to stop these vicious violations committed by extremist groups, who are protected by the Israeli government, and to return to the pre-1967 status quo which the Israeli state is seeking to change.”

President Abbas paid tribute to the people of Jerusalem saying: “Your nation and its leaders will live up to your steadfastness and will not leave you alone. You have stood up, Muslims and Christians together, in the face of the occupiers.”

The Palestinian president criticized the US administration stating that: “the oppressive practices conducted by the Israeli authorities against Palestine, as if Israel was a state above the law, not to mention the blockade of the economy and the continuous implementation of racist policies, would not have been possible without the support of the US administration. The US’s unconditional endorsement for Israel is the principal trigger of the constant Palestinian crisis. The US administration recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, transferred its embassy to the occupied city, and attached the US consulate to it. The US also cancelled the settlement and refugees’ file as well as the UNRWA file, in addition to closing the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) offices in Washington.”

Palestinian refugees hold banners during a protest against the UNWRA's decision on aid cuts and downsizing plans in Bethlehem, West Bank om 26 September 2018 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinian refugees hold banners during a protest against the UNWRA’s decision on aid cuts and downsizing plans in Bethlehem, West Bank on 26 September 2018 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency]

He added: “By taking these steps, the US government terminated the two-state solution, nullified the status of the occupation of the Palestinian territories and declared its recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. This is unacceptable for us and the entire world.  Thus, we expect that the US will commit greater and more dangerous violations. The US will instruct Israel to take over a part of the Palestinian territories, grant Palestinians autonomy rule over the rest of the land, and give the Gaza Strip officially to Hamas so that it can establish a formal state and play with it.”

He continued: “The actions of Trump’s administration damaged the Arab initiative and represented a radical change in the positions of the successive US administrations on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Trump came to declare this policy with a sense of impudence, which contradicts international law. By introducing such a policy, Trump’s administration has nullified what remained of the US’s role as a proposer of the peace plan or a mediator in the peace process.”

“We assure you of the validity of our decision to dismantle communication channels with the US administration for being unqualified to sponsor the negotiations. We cannot accept any peace plan that does not respect the bases and references of the peace process and the resolutions of international legitimacy to end the occupation and achieve freedom and independence for our state with its capital in east Jerusalem,” he said.

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President Abbas addressed the Arab leaders saying: “I call you, my fellow leaders, to be wary of Israel’s attempts to push some countries to transfer their embassies to Jerusalem. This requires the Arab states to stand in the way of such attempts and warn the decision makers in those countries of the violation against the international law they are about to commit, in addition to jeopardising their political and economic interests with the Arab World.”

He stressed: “We are confident that Israel’s attempts to normalise relations with the Arab and Islamic countries will not succeed unless the Arab peace initiative is implemented from beginning to end and not the opposite. Normalisation will never take place unless Israel ends its occupation of the Palestinian and Arab territories.”

Abbas added: “In the absence of a political solution, we have called for an international peace conference and the establishment of an international multilateral body to sponsor the peace talks. We urge the European countries and other states that have not recognised the State of Palestine yet to do so, as this would preserve the two-state solution and enhance the chances of peace in the region.”

Abu Mazen confirmed: “We will continue our joint action so that the State of Palestine will gain full membership of the United Nations, especially after the selection of Palestine to head the G-77 (plus China). This choice is a proof of the international community’s trust in the ability and efficiency of the Palestinian state’s institutions to resolve critical global problems such as sustainable development, and environmental issues, in addition to ensuring communication between the countries of the south and the north.

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