Pales­tini­ans and Is­rael say Tiller­son wrong about pay­ments to ‘ter­ror­ists’

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Joshua Mit­nick Mit­nick is a spe­cial correspondent.

TEL AVIV — U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son achieved a mo­men­tary con­sen­sus among Is­raeli and Pales­tinian of­fi­cials — but not in the way he may have hoped.

Of­fi­cials in Tel Aviv and the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wed­nes­day de­nied re­marks by Tiller­son a day ear­lier be­fore the U.S. Se­nate that the Pales­tini­ans had agreed to stop a long-stand­ing pol­icy of pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port to the rel­a­tives of in­di­vid­u­als in­volved in at­tacks against Is­raelis.

“They have changed their pol­icy,” Tiller­son told the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee on Tues­day. “Their in­tent is to cease the pay­ments to the fam­ily mem­bers of those who have com­mit­ted mur­der or vi­o­lence against oth­ers.”

But Pales­tinian of­fi­cials said pay­ments to rel­a­tives of at­tack­ers and Pales­tini­ans im­pris­oned by Is­rael would con­tinue. Sup­port for Pales­tinian pris­on­ers and fam­i­lies of so-called mar­tyrs en­joys wide con­sen­sus among the Pales­tinian pub­lic.

Na­bil Shaath, an ad­vi­sor to Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, said the Pales­tini­ans were sur­prised by Tiller­son’s re­marks. “This is not some­thing that the sec­re­tary of State should an­nounce. If we want to do it, we will an­nounce it. Giv­ing a con­ces­sion to the Is­raelis is not some­thing for the U.S. sec­re­tary of State to do,” said Shaath, speak­ing by tele­phone. “This cre­ates a se­ri­ous prob­lem with our peo­ple, to say that.”

Is­raeli politi­cians have re­cently seized on the pay­ments to ar­gue that Ab­bas is in­sin­cere about pur­su­ing peace with Is­rael.

In talks with the Pales­tini­ans about re­new­ing peace ne­go­ti­a­tions, Pres­i­dent Trump and U.S. of­fi­cials have pressed for a change. Trump told re­porters in the West Bank last month, “Peace can never take root in an en­vi­ron­ment where vi­o­lence is tol­er­ated, funded or re­warded.”

But on Wed­nes­day, Is­raeli of­fi­cials were also flum­moxed by Tiller­son’s com­ments, say­ing they were un­aware of any change.

“I haven’t seen any sign that the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity has stopped or plans to stop pay­ments to ter­ror­ists or fam­i­lies of ter­ror­ists,” De­fense Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man told Is­rael Ra­dio. “We are fol­low­ing this closely.”

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