Abbas aide fumes as Netanyahu eyes Israeli sovereignty over settlements

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman on Monday said any move that undermines “Palestinian rights” is “unjust and illegitimate,” following a report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seeking a public declaration from US President Donald Trump backing an Israeli move to extend sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language site, reported on Sunday that Netanyahu was attempting to obtain such a statement from Trump before the national vote on September 17, citing anonymous officials in the Prime Minister’s Office.

“In response to reports that some media outlets and sources have published, which speak about what Washington can provide Netanyahu as a gift to help him achieve success in the upcoming Israeli elections, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the presidency’s spokesman, said that any move that infringes on Palestinian rights or international law is unjust and illegitimate,” the official PA news outlet Wafa reported.

Abu Rudeineh did not specify which report he was responding to, but an official in Abbas’s office who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed in a phone call that it was in reaction to the Zman Yisrael report.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said on Monday the report was “incorrect.” The US Embassy in Israel declined to comment.

Netanyahu has recently expressed support for applying Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank.

Abu Rudeineh added that the proposed Israeli undertaking “will have dangerous consequences after Trump’s declaration about Jerusalem being Israel’s capital, the continued incursions of settlers and extremists into the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque, and the American position on refugees and the salaries of prisoners and martyrs,” the Wafa report also said.

Since late 2017, Trump’s administration has angered the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy to the city; cutting aid to UNRWA, the United Nations agency that supports Palestinian refugees and their descendants; criticizing its policy of paying security prisoners, including terrorists, and their families and those of dead terrorists; and closing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s representative office in Washington.

Abbas’s spokesman also said applying Israeli sovereignty to settlements in the West Bank would “be tantamount to playing with fire,” while affirming that it “would not establish any right or reality,” the Wafa report added.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership has frequently called for the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital along pre-1967 borders. It also has branded settlements in the West Bank as “illegal” and “illegitimate,” a position adopted by many members of the international community.

Before last April national elections, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed, in a move not recognized by the wider international community.

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