TEL AVIV – U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman slammed the Palestinian leadership in an interview Wednesday, saying that the aging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is replaceable and if he continues to show no interest in negotiating with Israel, the process will go on with someone else.
“If Abu Mazen is not interested in negotiating, I am sure that someone else will want to,” Friedman said in an interview with the weekly newspaper Shevi’i, referring to Abbas by his nom de guerre.
“If Abbas creates a vacuum, I am convinced that someone else will fill it, and then we will move forward [with the peace process],” Friedman added.
Palestinian officials have said that the Trump administration is pushing off revealing its Middle East peace plan because it believes the plan would have a better chance of succeeding after a new leader replaces Abbas, The Times of Israel reported.
Friedman’s harsh criticism is the first instance of an American official admitting disillusionment with Abbas since he severed ties with American negotiating teams in response to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December.
Abbas, who turns 83 this week, has had several medical issues in recent years but seems determined to stay in power. His term expired in 2009 and there have been no elections in the Palestinian Authority since 2006.
Last week, the PA said Friedman should be added to a “global terror list.” Days earlier, Abbas called the ambassador a “son of a dog” and a “settler.”
Friedman told Shevi’i that Abbas’ behavior only harms his own people.
“When Abu Mazen called me the son of a dog, he did a disservice to his people,” Friedman said. “Statements of this kind only make it more difficult for the United States to have serious talks with him. … Calling me names will not improve the situation of the Palestinians.”
Friedman also told the newspaper about the Taylor Force Act, signed last week by Trump as part of an omnibus budget. The bill will cut U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority so long as it continues to provide financial support to terrorists and their families.
The bill is named after former U.S. Army veteran and Vanderbilt University graduate student Taylor Force, who was killed in a stabbing attack while he toured Tel Aviv with his school in March 2016.
“The message from Washington was clear – you cannot show hostility toward American interests and continue to receive American aid as if nothing had happened,” Friedman said.