Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday praised the American envoy to Israel for having blamed the Palestinians’ alleged support of terrorism for the lack of peace in the Middle East.
“I want to congratulate Ambassador Friedman, the American ambassador to Israel, who tweeted the truth, unvarnished, straight forward,” Netanyahu told foreign journalists at a reception in Jerusalem. “He said some important things. The important thing is that [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas’s government is supporting the kind of murderers that murdered a father of six. Such people in our jails get $355 million a year, they and their families, from the Palestinian Authority. That is something that is untenable.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Friedman had taken to Twitter to condemn the deadly drive-by shooting of Rabbi Raziel Shevach the night before near his West Bank home.
“An Israeli father of six was killed last night in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists. Hamas praises the killers and PA laws will provide them financial rewards. Look no further to why there is no peace,” Friedman tweeted.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry reacted angrily to Friedman’s comments, saying they reflect his “prejudiced and selective attitude toward the occupation, settlement construction, and the Palestinian just and legitimate national rights.”
Later Wednesday, US special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt also weighed in on Twitter, writing that the “glorification” by the Hamas terror group and the Fatah faction headed by Abbas would only lead to more attacks.
Addressing the Government Press Office’s annual end-of-year reception for the foreign press corps, Netanyahu urged the international media to focus their reports on the fact that the PA pays “salaries” to terrorists and their families.
“Funding and incentivizing murder doesn’t exactly advance peace,” he said, positing that the Palestinian leadership teach their people the following principle: “Kill an Israel and get rich. Now what kind of message does this send to impressionable Palestinian children?
A frequent media critic, Netanyahu also urged the foreign journalists to write stories about his government’s unprecedented NIS 15 billion program to improve conditions for Israel’s Arab population and not to call Iran’s government “moderate” due to its repressive policies.
“Call me old fashioned but I don’t think there’s anything particularly moderate in calling for the destruction of Israel,” he said.
During a rare question-and-answer session, the prime minister said he does not fear the collapse of the PA in case the US administration was to cut aid to Ramallah. Rather, he reiterated his call for UNRWA, the UN’s refugee agency dealing exclusively with Palestinians, to be gradually dismantled.
Jerusalem is the capital of Israel under any deal, ultimate or not
Asked what his “ultimate deal” would look like, now that US President Donald Trump is planning to publish a peace initiative, Netanyahu replied: “Why don’t you let Mr. Trump present his first? Then we will see what the penultimate deal is and what the ultimate deal is. It takes time.”
The prime minister then lambasted Abbas for refusing to participate in US-sponsored peace talks due to Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“You know that’s not going to change. You know that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel under any deal, ultimate or not. Everybody understands that — with a deal, without a deal, Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” he said.
“Mr. Abbas has used this statement to seek a way to essentially run away from the negotiations. He’s done it before,” he added.
“The last thing you should do as journalists is give him credence. If you want to negotiate peace, you got to negotiate. We’ve never put any preconditions on negotiations, and I don’t do so now. And, of course, if President Trump puts forward his proposal, his ideas, I’ll study them very carefully,” he said.