RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to Israel on Thursday said he was misquoted in an Israeli report in which he warned that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could become irrelevant if he keeps shunning the United States as a Mideast broker.
In a post on Twitter, David Friedman said the U.S. is “not seeking ‘to replace’ Mahmoud Abbas. It is for the Palestinian people to choose its leadership.”
He also retweeted an apology from the Israeli publication that interviewed him, Shvii.
Israeli reports had quoted Friedman as saying that if Abbas is not interested in negotiating, “I am sure somebody else will” and that “vacuums tend to be filled.”
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Palestinian officials had criticized the comments as interference in Palestinian affairs.
Abbas suspended ties after President Donald Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December. Palestinian anger toward the U.S. has threatened the prospects of a U.S. peace plan being drawn up by the White House.
Earlier this month, Abbas described Friedman as a “son of a dog” due to the ambassador’s close ties to Israel’s West Bank settler movement.