PA head Mahmoud Abbas (R) met with Jason Greenblatt, Trump's international negotiator, in Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (Flash90) (Flash90)
Jason Greenblatt and Mahmoud Abbas

Trump’s peace initiative has already met obstacles, as the Palestinians are refusing to cease their practice of paying terrorists and inciting terrorists.   

After meeting with top American envoys on Wednesday about efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas defiantly defended his government’s practice of paying salaries to terrorists and their families.

In a speech read on Abbas’ behalf by his senior adviser Nabil Shaath at the Herzliya Conference on Thursday, Abbas claimed that “when the international community has an opportunity to move forward with a final status agreement between Israel and Palestine, the governments of Mr. Netanyahu find an excuse to avoid discussing the key issues,” Times of Israel reported.

“The most recent pretexts include incitement and social aid provided to the families of Palestinian political prisoners,” Abbas added, calling payments to imprisoned Palestinians—many of whom were convicted of murder and serious security offenses—a “social responsibility.”

Abbas met with top US officials on Wednesday, including Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Donald Trump; Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special representative for international negotiations; and Donald Blome, the US consul general in Jerusalem.

According to a White House readout, the meeting was productive and the parties “reaffirmed their commitment to advancing President Trump’s goal of a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians that enhances stability in the region.” They also recognized “that forging peace will take time and stressed the importance of doing everything possible to create an environment conducive to peacemaking.”

However, Abbas reportedly left the meeting enraged by the delegation’s demand to cut off payments for some convicted terrorists and their families. Originally, the US had demanded that Ramallah stop all payments, but later watered-down conditions to some 600 prisoners serving life sentences for murder.

Palestinians Rebuff US Pressure

A preliminary meeting on Tuesday between Greenblatt and Abbas “had not gone well and became tense over the Martyrs’ Fund,” the Associated Press reported, citing comments by a senior Palestinian official. While Greenblatt insisted that the PA stop paying terrorists, “the Palestinians had rebuffed Greenblatt’s pressure,” AP added.

On Friday, the PA accused the US delegation of being mouthpieces for the Israel government and refused Washington’s watered-down demand to stop paying salaries to Palestinian terrorists, the Times of Israel reported.

The PA reportedly also accused the US delegation of siding with Israel against the interests of the Palestinians. “They sounded like Netanyahu’s advisers and not as honest mediators,” a source told Haaretz.

Kushner and Greenblatt accepted Israel’s position regarding payments to Palestinian prisoners,” a source told Ynet, “and described it as a means of inciting terror, demanding it be stopped.”

Earlier this month, PA officials confirmed that they will continue paying salaries to terrorists and their families, contradicting an assertion by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the policy had been stopped. Issa Qaraqe, head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, characterized American and Israeli pressure to end the payments as “aggression against the Palestinian people.”

In a joint appearance with Abbas last month, President Trump said, “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded.” Days earlier, an adviser to Abbas called Trump’s request to end the payments to terrorists “insane.”

The PA issued payments to terrorists and their families totaling more than $1 billion over a four year period, according to a recent study by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The sum accounts for seven percent of the PA’s budget and is equivalent to 20 percent of the foreign aid the PA receives annually.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board argued in November that payments to Palestinian terrorists “are an official incentive program for murder that in any other context would be recognized as state sponsorship of terror.”

By: The Tower

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