Palestinians celebrate the arrival of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his government to take control of Gaza from the Islamist Hamas group.
(photo credit: SUHAIB SALEM / REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority reacted with fury on Thursday to Ambassador David Friedman’s remarks that if President Mahmoud Abbas does not negotiate with the US or Israel, then Washington and Jerusalem will find someone else to work with.
Friedman, in an interview published on Thursday in Shevi’i, a magazine distributed on Fridays to synagogues across the country, was asked about Abbas calling him the “son of a dog” earlier this month.
“I am not insulted by these things, I have the skin of an elephant,” the ambassador was quoted as saying.
Friedman said that those most harmed by this type of discourse are the Palestinians themselves.
“The White House passed along a message to Mahmoud Abbas: He has to choose whether to continue using this type of rhetoric or to join hands with us for the sake of people who need electricity water, schools and health services,” he said.
The ambassador continued: “If Abu Mazen [Abbas] is not interested in sitting for talks with us and with Israel, we will find another actor to work with. It is important to make clear: The vacuum will be filled. In our eyes the chairman of the Palestinian Authority is not irreplaceable.”
Friedman’s comments – first reported Wednesday night on Channel 10 – were quickly interpreted, included in the Palestinian media, as a US threat to find someone else in Abbas’s stead.
Friedman posted a tweet on Thursday morning clarifying that he was “misquoted in various reports stemming from an interview that published today. The United States is not seeking to ‘replace’ Mahmoud Abbas
. It is for the Palestinian people to choose its leadership.”
Palestinian leader Abbas says Trump's 'crime' over Jerusalem precludes US peace role (Reuters)
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Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh issued a statement saying that Friedman’s statements constitute “barefaced and unacceptable intervention in internal Palestinian affairs.
The Palestinian people, he said, “will not allow any foreign entity to decide its fate.
“It appears that Friedman is speaking on behalf of Israel more than that of America. He is making every effort to defend it and the settlers. He does not represent the United States of America’s interests, but rather a mindset that only wants to increase tensions and offend the American people.”
Abu Rudaineh emphasized that “this mindset only serves extremists and settlers’ interests.” He also said that this mindset “created ISIS, extremism and violence.”
According to Abu Rudaineh, “the administration needs to clarify its position regarding the repeated utterances of its ambassador, which are in violation of diplomatic customs.”
PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat also weighed in, saying that Friedman’s “behavior and statements are irresponsible and solely guided to advance Israeli colonialism, an enterprise that he has been personally committed to as one of its funders. During his time as US ambassador to Israel, he has worked tirelessly to advocate and legitimize Israeli violations while dehumanizing
Palestinians, inciting against the Palestinian national movement, and now even calling for a change of leadership in Palestine.”Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.
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