Palestinian president Abbas calls for end to agreements with Israel

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Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday he has decided to stop implementing agreements with Israel amid worsening relations between the two sides.

Abbas issued a statement following a meeting of PLO leaders in Ramallah on Thursday. The president said he would form a committee to advance ending all signed agreements with Israel, but it wasn’t clear such a move had a timeline.

“We announce the leadership’s decision to stop implementing the agreements signed with the Israeli side,” he said in a speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The president’s remarks came three days after Israel leveled several buildings it says were built too close to its West Bank separation barrier after a years-long legal battle.

Abbas restated his opposition to President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” between Israel and the Palestinians, and said that “Palestine and Jerusalem are not for sale or bargain.”

Abbas had previously not spoken so clearly and definitively of a break in cooperation, although Palestinian officials have in the past made threats to stop implementing all accords with Israel.

He said the Palestinians would immediately form a committee to study how to carry out the decision.
The two governments work together on matters ranging from water to security, and withdrawing from agreements could impact security in the occupied West Bank.

Abbas, 84, has made similar threats before and not implemented them.

But relations between Abbas’s government, based in the West Bank, and its Israeli counterpart have worsened in recent months.

In February, the Jewish state decided to deduct around $10 million a month from tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians, corresponding to the amount it said the Palestinian Authority pays to families of prisoners or directly to inmates in Israeli jails.

Israel sees such payments as encouraging attacks while Palestinians see them as support for families who have often lost their main breadwinner.

The Palestinians have in response refused to take any of the roughly $180 million in monthly tax revenues until the full amount is transferred, leaving Abbas’s PA in financial crisis.

Israel on Monday demolished 12 Palestinian apartment buildings, many of which were still under construction, in the Sur Baher area which straddles the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Israel said they were built too close to its separation barrier that cuts off the West Bank, but the demolitions were condemned by Palestinian leaders, as well as the European Union and UN officials.

“(The destruction of Palestinian homes) can only be classified as ethnic cleansing and a crime against humanity that cannot be tolerated,” Abbas said on Thursday.