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Blinken meets with Mahmoud Abbas to discuss Palestinian Authority reform

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities following his talks on the Ukraine crisis in Berlin, Germany, January 20, 2022. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

In a phone discussion with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted the need for reform in the Palestinian Authority, the State Department stated.

The news: President Joe Biden has worked to mend ties that were strained when his predecessor, President Donald Trump, cut aid to Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and closed a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem.

  • Despite Israeli concerns, the Biden administration has restored funds and promised to reopen the consulate, while asking Abbas, 86, to reform a number of policies, including payments made by his self-rule authority to Palestinians detained in Israeli jails.
  • State Department spokesman Ned Price did not mention the prisoner stipends when briefing reporters on Monday, but said Blinken and Abbas discussed the need for reform within the Palestinian Authority.
  • The two also discussed the need to improve the Palestinian people’s quality of life in concrete ways, according to Price.
  • Abbas’ administration did not mention any discussion of change inside the authority in a summary of the phone chat. The authority has limited self-rule in the West Bank land Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas adjusts his glasses as he listens during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not pictured), in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 25, 2021. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

What’s important: Israel must “stop the abuse of prisoners and … the withholding of taxes,” Abbas urged Blinken. In 2018, Israel began withholding the value of prisoner stipends from the taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and sends to it on a monthly basis.

  • The stipends, which are distributed monthly to inmates, their relatives, and the families of Palestinians killed for allegedly carrying out assaults, are said to promote more bloodshed by Israel and the U.S.
  • They are regarded as a sort of welfare by Palestinians, who revere the convicts and their family as national heroes.

According to Price, Blinken also met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Monday. Blinken reaffirmed the Biden administration’s commitment to Israel’s security as they discussed Ukraine, Iran, and Israeli-Palestinian concerns.

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