Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman blamed US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Thursday for the “crisis in US-Palestinian relations.”
Noting a Monday tweet by Friedman accusing Palestinian leaders of praising the terrorist who stabbed to death Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal outside the West Bank settlement of Ariel, Nabil Abu Rudeineh issued a statement Thursday in which he questioned whether the US envoy represented Israel or America.
“The statements by the US ambassador lead us to wonder about the ambassador’s relationship with the occupation: Does he represent the US or Israel?” asked Abu Rudeineh, according to the official PA news agency Wafa.
Abu Rudeineh insisted that “the only way to end violence in the region and the world is to solve the Palestinian issue based on United Nations resolutions, [which] call for an end to the occupation and the creation of the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
He blamed Friedman’s “advice and consultations, which are not aimed at achieving a just peace based on international legality,” for leading “to this crisis in US-Palestinian relations.”
Abu Rudeineh also accused Friedman of “making the situation more tense by providing pretexts for such acts of violence, which we reject. We affirm that the policy of President [Abbas] and the Palestinian leadership is peaceful popular resistance. We stress our rejection and condemnation of this harmful behavior by Ambassador Friedman.”
Ties between the US and the PA hit a nadir following US President Donald Trump’s December 6 declaration that the US would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with Abbas declaring the US could no longer serve as an “honest broker” in peace talks. Abbas has also refused to meet with US officials, including Vice President Mike Pence.
In his Monday tweet, Friedman charged that “Palestinian ‘leaders’ (sic) have praised the killer” in the deadly assault on Ben-Gal.
Friedman’s comments followed those of a spokesman for the Hamas terror organization, who lauded the attack as “a continuation of the resistance to Trump’s Jerusalem declaration.”
The next day, on Tuesday, Friedman wrote, “20 years ago, I gave an ambulance to Har Bracha, hoping it would be used to deliver healthy babies. Instead, a man from Har Bracha was just murdered by a terrorist, leaving behind a wife and four children.”
Ben-Gal, 29, was stabbed three times in the chest by his assailant, named by security forces on Monday as Abed al-Karim Assi, a resident of Jaffa on the central Israeli coast.
Assi, who is still at large, had received social service assistance, including at the Shanti Home in Tel Aviv for at-risk youth.
He has Israeli citizenship, which he has used to spend time on both sides of the Green Line. His father lives in Nablus and his mother in Haifa.
Several other ambassadors to Israel also took to Twitter to condemn the attack, among them Australia’s Chris Cannan, who said, “Such violence and terror cannot be justified. Heartfelt sympathies to his [Ben-Gal’s] family and loved ones.”
Norway’s Ambassador John Hanssen-Bauer described the attack as “brutal” and said, “Nothing justifies such violence and terror. It must stop.”
Calling the stabbing “vile,” French Ambassador Helene Le Gal tweeted, “Such an odious act cannot but be strongly condemned.”
Canada’s ambassador, Deborah Lyons, said, “Leaders must act to stop violence and terror.”
The British ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey, reacted by retweeting a condemnation of the murder by Conservative Party lawmaker Alistair Burt, who said, “There is never any excuse for terror. My thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim.”
Ben-Gal is the second Israeli to be killed in a terror attack in the West Bank in under a month. On January 9, Rabbi Raziel Shevach, 35, was fatally shot near Nablus in the northern West Bank.
At that time, Friedman, a longtime supporter of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, also lashed out at Palestinian terror groups and the PA.
“An Israeli father of six was killed last night in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists,” he tweeted. “Hamas praises the killers and PA laws will provide them financial rewards. Look no further to why there is no peace. Praying for the bereaved Shevach family.”
After a manhunt lasting nearly a month, Israeli troops on Tuesday morning shot dead Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, 22, the suspected ringleader of the terrorist cell believed to be responsible for Shevach’s death. Jarrar, who was armed, was killed in a shootout with the Israeli troops.