US President Barack Obama did not send a letter to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas affirming support for a Palestinian state, the Times of Israel learned late Thursday, refuting an official Palestinian report of the missive.
The Palestinian WAFA news agency reported Thursday that Abbas had received a letter from Obama indicating the US’s commitment to reaching a two-state solution for both the Israelis and Palestinians.
However the claim, which was rereported by a number of Israeli news outlets, is false, according to information received by The Times of Israel. No letter was sent from Obama to Abbas, according to the information received.
WAFA had claimed earlier Thursday that the letter was passed to Abbas via American diplomatic channels. The outlet also printed excerpts of the reported text.
“As I emphasized during our meeting, the United States remains deeply committed to a negotiated outcome between Palestinians and Israelis that result in an independent, viable, and a contiguous Palestinian state living in peace alongside the state of Israel,” Obama was said to have written. “I am hopeful we can continue to work closely together to achieve this goal and further strengthen the bonds between our two peoples.”
The Palestinian Authority’s relationship with Washington became more complicated after Abbas’s Fatah party announced a reconciliation with rivals Hamas, considered a terror group by the US and Israel, at the end of April, as American-mediated peace talks with Israel fell apart.
Earlier on Thursday, Fatah and Hamas officials worked to hammer out the final details of the 15-member technocratic unity government, meant to steer the Palestinians to elections. The two sides were reportedly snagged on the issue of who would serve as foreign minister, among other issues, and Hamas Prime Minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh said a final agreement could take hours or days more.
White House National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said Thursday it was too early for the US to announce whether it would support the unity government.
“As we have said, we will not make decisions until we see the final formation of the interim government and have the opportunity to assess and make a determination about whether this is a government we can work with,” she told The Times of Israel in a statement.
“Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties. President Abbas has been committed to these principles. As for Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, the United States does not and will not provide it assistance. Nor do we maintain contact with Hamas,” she said.
Last week, a senior White House official reportedly said the US would cooperate with the Palestinian unity government, despite Israeli opposition, so long as it abides by the PLO’s commitments to nonviolence and recognition of the state of Israel.