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US Ambassador says Abbas could be replaced in peace talks

US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, warned the Palestinian Authority (PA) President that if he refuses to engage in US-led peace talks, then the US will find other players who will.

In an interview with the weekly religious-Zionist newspaper Shevi’i, Friedman said: “If Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] is not interested in negotiating, I am sure that someone else will want to. If Abbas creates a vacuum, I am convinced that someone else will fill it, and then we will move forward [with the peace process].”

According to Israel’s Channel 10 News correspondent Barak Ravid, Friedman’s comments were the first time a senior Trump administration official raised the possibility that the White House will decide that Abbas is irrelevant.

Friedman also spoke about the Taylor Force Act that reduces US funding to the PA if it continues to pay allowances to prisoners convicted of terrorist offences in Israeli prisons and to families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis. He said: “The message from Washington was clear – you cannot show hostility toward American interests and continue to receive American aid as if nothing had happened.”

The PA shut down the Prisoner Affairs Ministry in 2014. It subsequently established the Prisoners Affairs Authority, which was classified as being part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) rather than the PA. This allowed for the payments to be made outside of the PA budget.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported this morning that the PA has decided to resume payments to prisoners and the families of Palestinians who were killed during attacks on Israelis directly, rather than via the PLO. A report on the 2018 PA budget indicates that £111m is earmarked for salaries to security prisoners and another £140m to the families of terrorists who were killed.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “The terror-sponsoring Abu Mazen has removed his mask and has dropped his gloves. We will put a stop to this absurdity.”


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