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U.S. Ambassador Friedman "clarifies" comments on Palestinian president

Friedman at his confirmation hearing. Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman issued today a clarification about comments he made against Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Friedman wrote this morning in a tweet:

"The United States is not seeking 'to replace' Mahmoud Abbas. It is for the Palestinian people to choose its leadership."

Yesterday I reported here and on Channel 10 News in Israel about Friedman's comments to a small newspaper called "Shviee," which is distributed in synagogues in Israel, when asked about the fact that Palestinian president Abbas refuses to engage with the White House.

Friedman answered: "Time doesn’t stand still…and if he is not interested is negotiating – I am sure somebody else will. Vacuums tend to be filled. If he creates a vacuum I am sure somebody will fill it. And we will move forward (on the peace process). The U.S. wants to help the Palestinian people – if the leadership is not on the same page then so be it, but we will not abandon the desire to improve the life of Palestinians."

Palestinian officials hit back at Friedman for his comments against Abbas, with chief negotiator Saeb Erekat saying: "The US Ambassador to Israel has once again shown his ideological commitment to Israel’s colonial-settlement policy as the first US official to declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestine doesn’t exist. During his time as US Ambassador to Israel, he has worked tirelessly to advocate and legitimize Israeli violations while dehumanizing Palestinians, inciting against the Palestinian national movement, and now even calling for a change of leadership in Palestine."

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