Greenblatt criticizes Abbas’ statement on Jerusalem’s holy status
For the first time since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, Jason Greenblatt, his chief envoy to the Middle East peace process, called out Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by name on Wednesday night.
In a series of tweets, Greenblatt entered into a skirmish with Abbas that he had previously sought to avoid, critizing the Palestinian leader for refusing to recognize the Jews’ historic roots in the ancient city.
“Pres. Abbas states about Jerusalem: ‘It is Arab, Muslim and Christian,’” Greenblatt wrote, “and makes no mention of any Jewish ties. Nothing peaceful or productive can come from statements like this.”
Greenblatt was quoting a statement Abbas made on Tuesday in a speech in Ramallah.
“Lasting peace will not be achieved by denying Judaism’s thousands of years of ties to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews,” Greenblatt continued in three prepared, threaded tweets. “Peace can ONLY be based on truth, and what [President Trump] said is the truth: ‘Jerusalem is today, and must remain, a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the Stations of the Cross, and where Muslims worship at al-Aksa Mosque.’”
In choosing to address Abbas publicly, Greenblatt was issuing his first response to Abbas’s ongoing rhetorical battle with the entirety of the Trump administration. The PA leader and his aides have personally criticized every senior administration official tied to the Mideast portfolio, including Greenblatt and the president himself.
Throughout Abbas’s barrage, Greenblatt and the rest of the White House peace team have kept their heads down and refused to respond to personal slights. The team insists that its peace plan – a robust, detailed document offering specific remedies to the thorniest issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – will speak for itself and give Palestinian leadership incentive to return to the table.
Abbas’s latest criticism came late on Wednesday night, leveled at the administration’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
“The ambassador’s recommendations and advice, which do not aim to achieve a just peace on the basis of international legitimacy, is what led to this crisis in American-Palestinian relations,” Nabil Abu Rudaineh, Abbas’s spokesman, said in a statement published on Wafa, the official PA news site.
“The American ambassador’s statements make us wonder about his relationship with the occupation,” Abu Rudaineh added. “Is he representing America or Israel?”
“Instead of contributing to creating a climate for peace, Ambassador Friedman is increasing tensions and providing pretexts for violent acts like these that we reject,” Abu Rudaineh said, without clarifying to which violent acts he was alluding. “We affirm that the [PA] president and Palestinian leadership’s policy is popular, peaceful resistance.”
Abbas has also expressed displeasure with Friedman. In a speech in January, Abbas accused Friedman – who has a history of supporting settlements – of living in a settlement. Friedman resides in the US ambassador’s residence in Herzliya.
White House officials declined to comment on the timing or thinking behind Greenblatt’s tweets. But senior officials recently told The Jerusalem Post: “When people say things about us that aren’t true, we will respond.”