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Published: Thu, June 15, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Tillerson warns against steps that cut off talks with Russia


Israeli officials on Wednesday denied claims by U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) agreed to freeze payments to the families of slain attackers.

Though Israeli and Palestinian leaders are now disputing the account, Tillerson made the comments in a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"They have changed their policy", Tillerson said, referring to the PA.

Israelis and Palestinians have both disputed claims by the U.S. secretary of state that the Palestinian Authority will stop making payments to the families of Palestinians killed while attacking Israelis.

The chairman and ranking members of both committees said the budget is a non-starter and represents an abdication of American leadership.

Instead, he said that there was an "active discussion" between Washington and Ramallah on the matter.

"If they think that we're somehow willing to relax the sanctions on them before they've complied with the Minsk framework and left Crimea, I think it just will encourage Putin to continue his bullying", Engel said.

Senators raised Trump's failure to endorse the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation principle of collective defense, his embrace of authoritarian leaders such as Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or China's President Xi Jinping, and his decision to walk away from the voluntary Paris Agreement on global warming.

"It is certainly not acceptable to the American people", Tillerson said.

Israel has long pushed unsuccessfully for the Palestinians to halt the "martyrs' fund" payments that go to roughly 35,000 families of Palestinians killed and wounded in its long-running conflict with Israel, including suicide bombers and others.

"Those that are mandated by statute, we will be back to talk with you about those as to whether we think it's good to have it structured that way or whether we really think we can be effective on those issues in a different way", Tillerson said at the hearing.

"Israel is unaware of any change of Palestinian policy", said the second official.

Since Trump took office, this issue has been a forefront focus as he's attempted to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

"We follow this closely", Lieberman said on Israel's Public Radio on Wednesday.

The Ministerial Law Committee on Sunday approved for Knesset legislation a bill that would deduct from tax payments to the Palestinian Authority the amount of money the PA pays families of terrorists.

Later on Monday, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) confirmed that Secretary Tillerson was mistaken.

In the past, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been reluctant to halt the payments, fearing a popular backlash.

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