WASHINGTON: US says its top diplomat Blinken sought “need for reform” in Palestinian Authority, but the office of Palestinian leader Abbas says talks over the phone touched the issues of Israel “abusing prisoners and withholding taxes.”
Palestine has told the US that Israel must “stop the abuse of prisoners and the withholding of taxes” while the latter called for “the need for reform within the Palestinian Authority,” officials from both sides said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas discussed by phone the “need for reform” within the Palestinian Authority” that governs portions of occupied West Bank, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday.
Blinken and Abbas discussed “the need to improve quality of life for the Palestinian people in tangible ways,” Price added.
But, in a readout of the phone call, Abbas’ office did not mention any discussion of reform within the authority, which exercises limited self-rule in occupied West Bank territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Abbas told Blinken that Israel must “stop the abuse of prisoners and … the withholding of taxes.”
Israel and the United States say the stipends, dispersed monthly to prisoners, their relatives, and the families of Palestinians killed for allegedly carrying out attacks, encourage further violence, while Palestinians consider them a form of welfare for inmates and families they regard as national heroes.
President Joe Biden has sought to repair ties, which was weakened by his predecessor, Donald Trump, when he slashed aid to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza, and closed a US consulate for Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem.
Blinken also spoke on Monday with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Price said in a statement.
The two discussed Ukraine, Iran, and Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Blinken reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to Israel’s security.
About 475,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967 and exercises full administrative control across much of the territory, where more than two million Palestinians live. In besieged Gaza, a tiny Palestinian enclave, two million Palestinians continue to live under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.