PLO official: Trump's Jerusalem recognition was 'backstabbing'

PLO envoy to Washington blasts Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Ben Ariel,

Trump announces recognition of Jerusalem
Trump announces recognition of Jerusalem

The Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) envoy to Washington, Husam Zomlot, on Thursday blasted U.S. President Donald Trump, saying his recognition last month of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital amounted to “backstabbing”.

Zomlot was speaking at the Middle East Institute think tank and was quoted by JTA. It was the first time he made public remarks since Trump's December 6 announcement that the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The PLO envoy in his remarks also recommitted the Palestinian Arabs to the two-state solution and to continuing to seek engagement with Israelis.

“We need to start the real process of either removing Israel-Palestine [as a domestic issue] or making Palestine a domestic issue,” he said, according to JTA. “But just to keep Israel as a domestic issue and not Palestine — that hasn’t worked for 26 years.”

Zomlot suggested the winds were in the Palestinian Arabs’ favor, claiming there is an erosion of support for Israel among younger and liberal Americans.

Netanyahu “can speak to this Congress,” he said. “But can he speak at a university in California or Wisconsin?”

By recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Zomlot said, Trump broke not only with 26 years of U.S. commitments to act only as a peace mediator between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but his own pledge at the outset of his presidency not to impose a solution.

“Trump violated his own pledge, ‘I do not want to impose, I do not want to dictate’,” Zomlot charged. “Then you come and you want to take the core of the two-state solution out….you turn, backstabbing?”

Zomlot dismissed Trump’s reassurance at the time that the recognition and the pledge to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem did not determine the city’s final status, and that it left open the possibility that a Palestinian capital might still emerge in eastern Jerusalem.

“Any embassy in the city is tacit recognition of Israel’s claim,” Zomlot said. “After reaching an agreement, we don’t mind two embassies” in Jerusalem, one serving Israel, the other Palestine.

He further said that threats to cut U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) would only embolden his people.

“If the choice is between starving the people of Palestine and surrendering rights, the people will not choose surrendering their rights,” claimed Zomlot, according to JTA.

His comments came hours after Trump, during a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Davos, threatened to cut off all monetary aid to the PA unless they agreed to resume negotiating with Israel and harshly criticized the PA for boycotting Vice President Mike Pence when he visited Israel earlier this week.

"They disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support — tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands," charged the president, who added, "That money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

In his remarks on Thursday, Zomlot also dismissed the anti-Jewish tropes in PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s speech last week at the PLO Central Council, in which he dismissed any Jewish connection to Israel, said Zionism was a European colonialist plot, and claimed that Holocaust era Jews had preferred the Nazis to Zionism.

Abbas also blasted Trump over his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in that speech and cursed him in Arabic, saying, “May your house be destroyed.”

Zomlot said, according to JTA, that the media would have done better to focus on the policy substance of the speech, in which, he claimed, Abbas renounced violence and called for engagement with Israelis, repudiating those Palestinians who oppose such encounters because they “normalize the Israeli occupation.”

He also claimed that support for Palestinian statehood remained strong worldwide, and that the PA would continue to seek statehood recognition in international forums.

“There is a lot of thinking that the Palestinians are in their weakest position,” he said. “The key to Israel’s survival is in the Palestinians.”

Abbas recalled Zomlot from Washington for “consultations” over Trump’s Jerusalem move a few weeks ago. However, Zomlot returned to Washington just one day later.