TEL AVIV – Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat slammed President Donald Trump on Wednesday, saying “real estate men” will never solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, said the White House “should be run by great men, not real estate men” and the conflict “won’t be solved by the tools of real estate men.”
He also reiterated the PA’s stance that it would continue its payments of salaries to terrorists and their families.
Erekat left out that the Palestinians rejected all previous peace offers, including those brokered under former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
On Tuesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh warned Israel that its newly passed law to deduct terrorists’ salaries from its monthly tax revenues is “a declaration of war on the Palestinian people.”
“If this decision is implemented, it will prompt important Palestinian decisions to deal with it,” he added.
The PA Finance Ministry noted that the Ramallah-based government was paying prisoners and their families roughly NIS 100 million each month.
“This issue is considered a red line which no one can cross. It’s a declaration of war against the Palestinian people, its fighters, its prisoners and its fatalities, who have carried the flag of freedom for Jerusalem and the establishment of the independent Palestinian state,” Rudeineh said.
“The Israeli government must back down from its decisions and stances so that we don’t reach a dangerous, dead-end road.”
Youssef Al-Mahmoud, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah, also condemned Israel’s move, saying the money belonged to the Palestinians and Israel had no right to hold it back and was violating signed agreements.
“This money belongs to the Palestinian people and this is legislation to steal the money of the prisoners and the martyrs who are symbols of freedom for us and they must not be harmed,” Mahmoud said.
Earlier this week, the Knesset passed a bill that allows the Israeli government to deduct the payments for the PA’s so-called pay-for-slay scheme from the taxes Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians. The vote passed with 87 members of Knesset in favor and 15 against.
The legislation was sponsored by MKs Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) and Avi Dichter (Likud). In the proposal, the authors wrote that the PA has paid terrorists over NIS 4 billion over the past four years.
The PA leadership on Tuesday said that nothing the U.S. or Israel does will deter it from continuing to pay salaries to the prisoners and their relatives.
On Monday, Australia announced that it would cut funding to the PA over the policy.
The PA claimed that such “punitive” measures cause very little damage to its budget.
“Suspending the funds [to the PA] will not have a severe impact on the PA because only 15% of its budget comes from international aid,” a Palestinian official in Ramallah told the Jerusalem Post.
However he added that if more countries decide to cut funding, the PA would “be in big trouble.”
Palestinian officials also warned on Tuesday that cutting aid would only make Hamas and other terror groups stronger.
“By punishing the Palestinian Authority, you are awarding Hamas,” a member of the Fatah Central Council told the Post.
“Creating more bitterness and frustration on the Palestinian street will play into the hands of Hamas. And if the Palestinian Authority does not pay the prisoners and their families, there will always be others who are prepared to do. Do we really want Hamas and Iran to pay salaries?”
He and many Palestinian officials in Ramallah said they were convinced that the increased threats to cut funds to the PA were part of a US-Israeli “conspiracy” to “blackmail” the Palestinians and force them to make far-reaching concessions to Israel. They believe the Trump administration and Israel will now increase their efforts to convince other countries to suspend funds to the PA in order to force them to accept whatever the “deal of the century” offers them.
“These measures are doomed to failure because the Palestinians are not going to abandon their national rights in return for money,” the Fatah official said. “Our people have already rejected the Trump plan and they are not going to change their mind because of the funding.”
Last week, Erekat slammed the White House for its bias towards Israel.
“This whole administration is biased in favor of Israel,” he said. “Their peace plan will fail. They want to impose facts, but that will not work for them.”
“They see us as terrorists, and [senior envoy Jared] Kushner himself said that [the Trump administration] wants to replace [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] and Erekat. It is unacceptable, we are the elected leadership of the Palestinian people,” added Erekat.
In a statement, Erekat said the Trump administration offers “nothing of substance.”
“Kushner’s interview again illustrates the U.S. refusal to talk substance, to mention Palestinian rights or a Palestinian state. This is an attempt to push forward a plan that consolidates Israel’s colonial control over Palestinian land and lives while telling the Palestinian people that money will compensate for our inalienable rights,” he said.
“Plain and simple: Palestine and Palestinian rights are not for sale.”