Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attacked U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Monday, calling him a "son of a dog" for saying Jewish settlements in the West Bank are a part of Israel. The White House responded with scorn, calling the comments "insulting."
"Son of a dog. They [the settlers] are building on their land? You are a settler and your family are settlers," Abbas said of Friedman in a speech in Ramallah.
Friedman suggested that Abbas' remarks amounted to anti-Semitism while speaking at a Jerusalem conference later on Monday
"Three young Israelis were murdered over the weekend ... in cold blood by Palestinian terrorist and a reaction from the Palestinian Authority was deafening. No condemnation," Friedman told the audience at the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem. "I saw his response on my iPhone. His response was to refer to me as son of a dog. Is that anti-Semitism or political discourse? I leave that up to you."
Abbas made his comments after statements by American officials, including Freidman, that the settlements were a part of Israel. He also attacked the plan to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem and the decision to stop funding the United Nations' Palestinian refugee agency.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also responded to Abbas' remarks. "Abu Mazen's assault on the U.S. ambassador, David Friedman, says everything," Netanyahu said using Abbas' nickname. "For the first time in dozens of years the American administration has stopped pampering the Palestinian leaders Apparently the shock from the truth made them lose their heads."
Abbas added that although he was pushed to go to Washington and approve Trump's policies, he doesn't agree with current U.S. decision-making. "What do you expect of such a government?" he said. "I was pressured to travel to Washington to legitimize Trump's program, but I did not agree and would never agree to give up our principles or the rights of the Palestinian people."
"They made a conference about Gaza, but only now do they claim to recognize that Gazans are suffering, and we've been talking for 11 years already. The U.S. and Israel bear responsibility for the Hamas's takeover of the Gaza strip," Abbas said.
In September, the U.S. State Department publicly distanced itself from comments made by Friedman, who said in an interview that Israel was "only occupying 2 percent of the West Bank" and that it was "always the expectation" that Israel would expand into the area it conquered after the Six-Day War in 1967. Previous U.S. administrations from both parties have consistently referred to the West Bank as occupied territory and have denounced Israel for building settlements in it.
Abbas blames Hamas for attempt on PM's life
In his speech in Ramallah on Monday, Abbas also blamed the Islamist Hamas group for the March 13 bomb attack on the convoy of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza, saying it was a "despicable and sinful act" in a speech to Fatah's central committee.
Hamdallah and Palestinian security chief Majid Faraj were uninjured when a roadside bomb exploded as they entered the Gaza Strip on their way to a ceremony in the enclave that is dominated by the Hamas faction and is a rival of Abbas's Fatah faction.
"We give congratulate the two big brothers [Hamdallah and Faraj] that they are safe after the sinful and despicable attack that was carried out against them by the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip," Abbas said.
Abbas said he ordered commanders and security forces not to harm any Gazans in relation to the attempted assassination. "We could've arrested twenty people and executed them in the square, but we – we have patience, we have responsibility, unlike Hamas," he said.
Regarding reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the PA, Abbas said either the PA would bear all responsibility for what happens in Gaza, or "Hamas will suffer" the consequences for the coup they insinuated.
Hamas rips into Abbas
In a statement, Hamas harshly criticized Abbas’ accusations. “What Abbas is doing doesn’t constitute a blow solely to Hamas but to the entire Palestinian people and constitutes a mortal blow to the efforts at reconciliation and the advancement of the Palestinian national interest.”
According to the group, Abbas’ address, “increases the chances of separating the Strip from the West Bank in an effort to cause chaos that will pave the wave for Trump’s deal and Israel plans.” Hamas called on all the Palestinian factions and the Arab League to intervene in Abbas’ policy, “To prevent deterioration and escalation that is liable to be disastrous for the Palestinian people.”
With reporting by Reuters