MIDDLE EAST

Palestine leadership votes to suspend recognition of Israel

PALESTINE LEADERSHIP VOTES TO SUSPEND RECOGNITION OF ISRAEL

Palestinian leaders voted on Monday to call for the suspension of recognition of Israel in a move with potentially deep implications as they met in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

While withdrawing the Palestine Liberation Organization's recognition of Israel could spark international backlash, it was unclear whether the vote was binding.

A previous vote by the same Palestinian Central Council, a high-ranking arm of the PLO, in 2015 to suspend security coordination with Israel was never implemented. That vote was also reaffirmed Monday.

However, even if the move goes no further, the vote was another expression of Palestinian fury over Trump's Jerusalem declaration and what they see as the White House's attack on their long bid for statehood.

On Sunday as he opened the meeting, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who voted in favor of the suspension, called Trump's peace efforts the "slap of the century."

The vote ordered the Palestine Liberation Organization to suspend its recognition of Israel until it "recognizes the state of Palestine," cancels its annexation of east Jerusalem and stops settlement activity, a statement said.

The PLO is considered the official representative of Palestine internationally and formalized its recognition of Israel in 1993.

In a statement, the delegates also backed comments made Sunday by Abbas that the Oslo peace accords of the early 1990s, which form the basis of the Palestine's relations with Israel, were "finished."

Abbas had said that Israel had ended the accords through its actions, referring to activities seen as eroding the possibility of a two-state solution such as persistent settlement building.

There was no immediate Israeli reaction to the vote, but earlier Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas's comments had "torn off" his "mask" as a supposed moderate.

Hamas, the Palestinian religious movement that runs the Gaza Strip and does not recognize Israel, appeared to welcome the vote but said in a statement that the "real test" would be "to implement it effectively on the ground and put in place the necessary mechanisms."

The rare meeting of the PCC was called after Trump's controversial Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Palestine wants the annexed eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state, and Abbas has said Trump's stance means the United States can no longer be the mediator in peace talks with Israel.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem - occupied by Israel - might eventually serve as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

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