US en­voy says he was mis­quoted on Pales­tini­ans

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL -

The US am­bas­sador to Is­rael on Thurs­day said he was mis­quoted in an Is­raeli re­port in which he warned that Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas could be­come ir­rel­e­vant if he keeps shun­ning the US as a Mideast bro­ker.

In a post on Twit­ter, David Friedman said the US is “not seek­ing ‘to re­place' Mah­moud Ab­bas. It is for the Pales­tinian peo­ple to choose its lead­er­ship.”

He also retweeted an apol­ogy from the Is­raeli pub­li­ca­tion that in­ter­viewed him, Shvii.

Is­raeli re­ports had quoted Friedman as say­ing that if Ab­bas is not in­ter­ested in ne­go­ti­at­ing, “I am sure some­body else will” and that “vac­u­ums tend to be filled.”

Pales­tinian of­fi­cials had crit­i­cized the com­ments as in­ter­fer­ence in Pales­tinian af­fairs.

Ab­bas sus­pended ties af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump rec­og­nized con­tested Jerusalem as Is­rael's cap­i­tal in De­cem­ber. Pales­tinian anger to­ward the US has threat­ened the prospects of a US peace plan be­ing drawn up by the White House.

Ear­lier this month, Ab­bas de­scribed Friedman as a “son of a dog” due to the am­bas­sador's close ties to Is­rael's West Bank set­tler move­ment.

Con­tentious re­la­tions be­tween the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Ab­bas are bound to de­te­ri­o­rate fur­ther with in­com­ing Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton, who has said Pales­tini­ans would be bet­ter off be­ing ab­sorbed by Egypt and Jor­dan than hav­ing their own state.

Mean­while, US-backed ef­forts to ne­go­ti­ate a deal sidelin­ing Ha­mas in the Gaza Strip ap­pear to have col­lapsed, rais­ing new ques­tions about the ter­ri­tory said to be at the cen­ter of any US plan.

Cou­pled with Ab­bas' re­fusal to en­gage with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, these de­vel­op­ments ex­ac­er­bate fun­da­men­tal chal­lenges to any pro­pos­als com­ing from Wash­ing­ton.

In re­cent months, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has ex­pressed con­cern about a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Gaza and has backed ef­forts of re­gional ally Egypt to bro­ker a deal be­tween Ab­bas and Ha­mas.

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