US ambassador to Israel denies comments on Abbas

David Friedman was accused of calling for Palestinian president to be replaced

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas scratches his head during a joint press conference with the visiting Bulgarian president at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 22, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI

The US ambassador to Israel has said he was misquoted in an Israeli report in which he warned that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could become irrelevant if he continued shunning the United States as a Middle East peace broker.

In a post on Twitter, David Friedman said the US was "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 Mr Friedman as saying that if Mr Abbas was not interested in negotiating, "I am sure somebody else will" and that "vacuums tend to be filled".

Palestinian officials criticised the comments as interference in Palestinian affairs.

Mr Abbas suspended ties after US President Donald Trump recognised contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December. Palestinian anger toward the US has threatened the prospects of a peace plan being drawn up by the White House.

Earlier this month, Mr Abbas described Mr Friedman as a "son of a dog" due to the ambassador's close ties to Israel's West Bank settler movement.