Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday evening offered condolences to US Vice President Joe Biden over the killing of a US citizen by a West Bank Palestinian in a terror attack on Tuesday night in Jaffa, while stating that Israeli control over the West Bank was the source of rampant violence.
Hours after Biden appeared to criticize Abbas for failing to condemn terror attacks, the Palestinian Authority head said he was sorry for the death of tourist Taylor Force, but said that Israel has killed over 200 Palestinians in the wave of violence since October, according to a statement from the PA to reporters.
Twenty nine Israelis and 4 foreign nationals have been killed in an ongoing wave of Palestinian stabbing, car-ramming and shooting attacks since October. The latest victim was American student Taylor Force, stabbed to death on Tuesday as Biden was meeting with Israel’s former president Shimon Peres nearby. An estimated 180 Palestinians have died in the same period, more than two thirds of them in the course of attacking Israelis, and the rest in clashes with Israeli troops, according to the Israeli army.
Abbas met with Biden in Ramallah for about two hours. The two did not speak to reporters and Biden did not issue a statement before or after the meeting.
“Abbas expressed his condolences over the American citizen who was killed yesterday, stressing at the same time that the occupation authorities have killed 200 Palestinians in the past five months,” a statement on the official Palestinian Wafa news website said.
The PA president told Biden the Palestinians are committed to the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, and said continued Israeli control over the West Bank and the settlements were the source of the violence.
According to the official PA outlet, Biden expressed the US’s longstanding opposition to Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Biden “assured of the US administration’s commitment to the principle of a two-state solution and the need to defend it, as well as the US administration’s permanent stance regarding the settlements,” Wafa reported.
Biden earlier on Wednesday appeared to condemn Abbas for not speaking out against terror attacks, a day after Force was killed and 10 others were injured in the stabbing spree in Jaffa, the third attack in the span of a few hours.
His comments, delivered in Jerusalem, came minutes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that not only had Abbas and his Fatah political group failed to condemn, but that Fatah had in fact praised the terrorist who killed Texas-born tourist Force.
“Let me say in no uncertain terms: The United States of America condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts. This cannot become an accepted modus operandi,” Biden said during a press conference alongside Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office.
“This cannot be viewed by civilized leaders as an appropriate way in which to behave,” he continued. “It is just not tolerable in the 21st century. They’re targeting innocent civilians, mothers, pregnant women, teenagers, grandfathers, American citizens.
“There can be no justification for this hateful violence and the United States stands firmly behind Israel when it defends itself as we are defending ourselves at this moment as well.”
An official TV news station of the Palestinian Authority had earlier described the killer as a “martyr” and called his victims “settlers.”
Abbas’s Fatah party posted a cartoon on its Twitter account of a hand holding a knife over a map of Israel and the Palestinian territories, and calling the Palestinian stabber from Tuesday’s attack a “hero” and “martyr.”
“This is the result so long as Israel does not believe in the two-state solution and ending its occupation,” the Fatah statement on Twitter read, referring to a future Palestinian state alongside Israel.
On Wednesday evening, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest echoed Biden’s criticisms.
“Our expectation would be that public officials and those who are in positions of leadership would condemn any act of terrorism,” he said.
Biden, who was meeting with Peres at the Peres Center in Jaffa as the attack unfolded nearby, also argued Wednesday that the only way forward for Israelis and Palestinians would have to be a two-state solution, and said he encouraged “all sides to take steps to move back toward the path to peace – not easy – and for the sake of Israel, and I might add, for the sake of the Palestinians in the region.”
Later Wednesday, Biden told President Reuven Rivlin that Israel would not be able to stymie the wave of terror by force alone, hinting at the need for new peace talks.
White House officials have insisted that Biden’s trip would not include a renewed peace push.
The attack in Jaffa was the third serious incident in the span of a few hours, coming on the heels of a stabbing in Petah Tikva and a shooting in Jerusalem.
Dov Lieber and agencies contributed to this report.