DC to Palestinian head: Stop the invective, help your people

US slams Abbas over ‘outrageous’ insult of its Israel envoy

After PA chief calls Friedman a ‘son of a dog,’ Jason Greenblatt urges PA president to abandon ‘hateful rhetoric’ but says White House remains committed to the Palestinian people

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on March 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's special representative for international negotiations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on March 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the peace process slammed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday for having called the American ambassador to Israel a “son of a dog,” urging him to abandon his “hateful rhetoric” and instead focus on improving the lives of his people.

At the same time, Jason Greenblatt said the White House remains “committed to the Palestinian people,” adding that the administration’s much-anticipated peace proposal is in its final stages.

“The time has come for President Abbas to choose between hateful rhetoric and concrete and practical efforts to improve the quality of life of his people and lead them to peace and prosperity,” Greenblatt said in a statement.

“Notwithstanding his highly inappropriate insults against members of the Trump administration, the latest iteration being his insult of my good friend and colleague Ambassador Friedman, we are committed to the Palestinian people and to the changes that must be implemented for peaceful coexistence,” he went on. “We are finalizing our plan for peace and we will advance it when circumstances are right.”

US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert echoed Greenblatt’s statement. “President Abbas’s comments were outrageous and unhelpful,” she said. “We urge the Palestinian Authority to focus its efforts on improving the lives of the Palestinian people and advancing the cause of peace. The administration remains fully committed to those goals.”

Earlier on Monday, Abbas railed against Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his plan to move the country’s embassy in Israel to the city, lamenting that the president “views the settlements as legitimate.”

“More than one official has said that,” Abbas told a Palestinian leadership meeting. “The ambassador, David Friedman, said they’re building on their own land. You son of a dog, building on their own land?! You are a settler and your family are settlers!”

The comments came amid roiling Palestinian anger at the US over the Jerusalem decision, with Ramallah rejecting Washington’s role in attempting to broker peace talks.

“Son of a dog” is a pejorative in Arabic, open to multiple interpretations. It is seen by some as analogous to “son of a bitch,” by others as relatively mild, and but by still others as more serious given the reference to an animal.

The Arabic term, however, has entered Israeli slang and is used by Hebrew-speakers to be more insulting than the original Arabic, perhaps the reason Abbas’s use prompted particularly strong Israeli reactions, with politicians quick to denounce the Palestinian leader.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend the ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War in the Old City of Jerusalem on May 21, 2017. (AFP Photo/EPA Pool/Abir Sultan)

“Abu Mazen’s verbal attack on US Ambassador David Friedman says it all,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “For the first time in decades, the US administration has stopped spoiling the Palestinian leaders and tells them: enough is enough. Apparently the shock of the truth has caused them to lose it.”

Friedman himself briefly responded to Abbas while at an anti-Semitism conference in Jerusalem Monday evening. Friedman quoted the insult, translating the term in English to “son of a bitch,” and noted that the slur came after the PA president failed to condemn two terror attacks carried out by Palestinians in the last week that left three Israelis dead. “Anti-Semitism or political discourse? I leave this up to you,” Friedman said.

Friedman earlier Monday had slammed the PA for not condemning the deadly attacks.

“Tragedy in Israel,” Friedman posted to his Twitter feed. “2 young soldiers, Netanel Kahalani and Ziv Daos, murdered in the north, and father of 4, Adiel Kolman, murdered in Jerusalem, by Palestinian terrorists. Such brutality and no condemnation from the PA! I pray for the families and the wounded – so much sadness.”

Friedman is known for making comments aligning himself with the Israeli right-wing, as well as for supporting projects in settlements.

Illustrative: Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (C-R) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. Abbas said that Israel has “ended” the landmark Oslo peace accords of the 1990s with its actions. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

Monday’s controversy is not the first time that Abbas raises eyebrows by hurling harsh insults at top US officials. In January, he launched a bitter tirade against the White House, including cursing Trump by saying: “May God demolish your house.”

A few days after Abbas’s speech, reporters asked Trump whether he would like to comment.

“No, I didn’t really read his remarks personally,” the president replied. “I think I’m probably better off not seeing them.”

Abbas has made a series of bitter speeches since Trump recognized Jerusalem, and is now boycotting the US administration.

In an address in January, Abbas called Israel a “colonial project” unrelated to Judaism, implied that European Jews chose to die in the Holocaust rather than go to pre-state Palestine, and claimed that first prime minister David Ben-Gurion forced Mideast Jews to come to Israel.

This article was updated to elaborate on the definition of “son of a dog.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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