White House to Abbas: Time to Choose Between Hateful Rhetoric and Peace Efforts

Trump envoy Greenblatt responds after Abbas calls U.S. ambassador 'son of a dog, settler' ■ David Friedman suggests Abbas' remarks against him were anti-Semitic

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaks during a meeting with the Palestinian Central Council, a top decision-making body, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 . (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed,l)
Majdi Mohammed/AP

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump's peace envoy responded to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' combative speech in which he lashed out at the U.S. ambassador to Israel, calling him a "son of a dog" and a "settler."

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"The time has come for President Abbas to choose between hateful rhetoric and concrete and practical efforts to improve the quality of life of his people and lead them to peace and prosperity," Jason Greenblatt said in response to Abbas speech.

Abbas

"Notwithstanding his highly inappropriate insults against members of the Trump administration, the latest iteration being his insult of my good friend and colleague Ambassador David Friedman, we are committed to the Palestinian people and to the changes that must be implemented for peaceful coexistence.

"We are finalizing our plan for peace and we will advance it when circumstances are right," a statement on his behalf said.

The State Department echoed the statement's sentiment, saying Abbas' comments were "outrageous and unhelpful."

Abbas attacked attacked U.S. Ambassador Friedman on Monday for saying Jewish settlements in the West Bank are a part of Israel.

"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.

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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.

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.