(CNSNews.com) – Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas told Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday that “the Israeli government is responsible for what’s happening these days,” laying out a litany of complaints about Israeli policies but making no reference to a deadly Palestinian terrorist attack near a Jerusalem synagogue on Friday night.
Seated alongside Blinken in Ramallah, Abbas contrasted alleged Israeli wrongdoing to the positions of the P.A., including what he described as its commitment to “renunciation of violence and terrorism.”
In his responding remarks, Blinken told Abbas that he appreciated his “consistent and resolute stance against terrorism.”
Abbas has not specifically condemned the shooting attack in Jerusalem, in which six Israelis and a Ukrainian citizen were killed. Neither has he publicly spoken out against the boisterous celebrations that erupted on the streets of several Palestinian cities as news of the attack spread.
Some figures in Abbas’ Fatah faction of the PLO have praised the attack and its perpetrator.
Later in his comments in Ramallah, Blinken said, “We look to both sides to unequivocally condemn any acts of violence regardless of the victim or the perpetrator.”
Although Blinken included “incitement and acquiescence to violence” among a list of actions which he said made a “two-state solution” to the conflict more difficult to achieve, he did not mention in front of Abbas the P.A.’s controversial “martyrs’ fund” policy – the payment of monthly stipends to families of Palestinians killed while attacking Israelis, or jailed for such attacks. Critics say it incentivizes terrorism.
One of the Israeli actions that Abbas listed and condemned was “the seizure of funds.” Israel last month said it would deduct from its transfers to the P.A. an amount equivalent to its “martyrs’ fund” payouts last year. The step was part of Israel’s retaliation for the P.A.’s successful push to have the U.N.’s top court issue an advisory opinion on Israel’s “occupation, settlement and annexation” of territory claimed by the Palestinians.
(U.S. law requires the withholding of funding to the P.A. until the administration certifies that payments to the families of convicted and dead terrorists have stopped. The Biden administration restored funding to the Palestinians in April 2021, but says the funds go through “experienced and trusted independent partners on the ground” and so is consistent with the 2018 Taylor Force Act.)
Back in Jerusalem later on Tuesday, Blinken spoke in more detail about actions by both sides which he said were threatening the achievement of a two-state solution. Of the actions he listed, most pointed a finger at Israel.
“The United States will continue to oppose anything that puts that goal further from reach,” he told reporters, “including but not limited to settlement expansion, legalization of illegal outposts, a move towards annexation of the West Bank, disruption to the historic status quo on Jerusalem’s holy sites, demolitions and evictions, and incitement and acquiescence to violence.”
Blinken said he had heard “deep concern about the current trajectory” during three-day visit to the region but had “also heard constructive ideas for practical steps that each side can take to lower the temperature, to foster greater cooperation, to bolster people’s security.”
He said he has asked senior members of his team to remain in the region and continue discussions on advancing those steps – which he declined to detail – but added that the parties themselves have to find a path forward that begins with diffusing “the current cycle of violence.”
Asked whether he thought Abbas was the right person to defuse tensions and fight terrorism, Blinken said that “as always, we’re focused on the policies that governments, administrations pursue, not individual personalities.”
“And so we’re focused on what the Palestinian Authority is doing both to work to improve the lives of the Palestinian people as well as to engage responsibly with Israel on, first and foremost, defusing the current situation, the current cycle of violence – reducing tensions, not escalating them; calming things down, not ramping things up.”
Abbas, 87, continues to hold the title of “president of the State of Palestine,” more than a decade after his four-year mandate expired in January 2009.
Amid rifts between his Fatah faction and Hamas, which controls Gaza, presidential elections have been postponed repeatedly since 2010. Palestinian legislative elections have not been held since 2006.
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