Palestinian leader says he's pulling out of peace agreements over annexation
By STEVE HENDRIX | The Washington Post | Published: May 20, 2020
JERUSALEM — Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas declared Tuesday he was pulling out of long-standing peace agreements and security arrangements with Israel because of Israeli moves toward annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, cited a provision of Israel's new unity government, which was sworn in Sunday, allowing it to consider unilaterally annexing up to 30 percent of the West Bank as early as July, a proposal that was endorsed by the Trump peace plan released earlier this year.
Abbas, speaking after an emergency meeting of his cabinet in Ramallah, said his government would no longer abide by the multiple accords between the Palestinians, Israel and the United States, including the landmark 1993 Oslo agreement.
The move toward annexation has roiled the region, with European and Arab diplomats largely condemning the possibility. Abbas noted the initiative was only the latest in what he characterized as a string of snubs from the Trump administration, including the 2018 move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Authority declined to participate in the administration's preparation for its peace proposal, which also allows for a limited Palestinian state on the remainder of the territories.
"We hold the American administration fully responsible for the oppression befalling the Palestinian people," Abbas said in televised address, according to the official Palestinian News and Information Agency. "We consider it a primary partner with the Israeli occupation government."
The ruling Palestine Liberation Organization now considers itself absolved from all obligations because of the moves, Abbas said, leaving Israel alone responsible and bound by international law "as an occupying power over the territory."
Abbas has threatened before to abandon the complex web of agreements that has for decades divided control over the disputed territories between Israel and the elected Palestinian Authority, most recently after the debut of the Trump peace plan in January. It was unclear Tuesday whether on-ground coordination between Israeli and Palestinian security units would be interrupted.
"The innumerable broken-record announcements by the Palestinian Authority claiming they are not bound by agreements with Israel are much less significant than the fact that they have never acted as if they were bound," said Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum and leading advocate of annexation.
While his declaration Tuesday was in unusually stark terms, Abbas also committed to participating in an internationally negotiated resolution to the conflict.
"We reaffirm our commitment to a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on the two-state solution," he said in the address.
Israel's new coalition agreement stipulates that annexation can be enacted by a vote of either the cabinet or parliament any time after July 1, as long as it has the approval of the U.S. administration. Observers say the window to enact the measure would probably close if Trump fails to win reelection.
Joe Biden, Trump's likely Democratic opponent, repeated his opposition to annexation Tuesday during an online meeting with Jewish donors.