Kerry Skips Israel, Set to 'Lunch' With Abbas

Secretary of State John Kerry will not travel to Israel, but will meet with PA Chairman Mahmud Abbas in Riyadh on Monday.

Rachel Hirshfeld ,

US Secy of State John Kerry, UK Foreign Secy
US Secy of State John Kerry, UK Foreign Secy

While Secretary of State John Kerry will not travel to Israel during his first tour of the Middle East since assuming the top U.S. diplomatic post, he will be meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmud Abbas in Riyadh on Monday, a state department official told reporters.

Kerry, who is on his first trip to the region since succeeding Hillary Rodham Clinton as the top United States diplomat, will have lunch with the PA leader, who arrived unexpectedly in Riyadh on Sunday, AFP reported.

Kerry's tour does not include Israel, but he will reportedly accompany President Barack Obama when he meets Israeli and Arab leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah during a visit on March 20-22.

Abbas "will present the Palestinian point of view to the new US administration ahead of Obama's visit," PA envoy in Riyadh Jamal al-Shawbaki told the “Voice of Palestine” radio station.

Abbas, in his first meeting with Kerry, will also highlight the so-called “Israeli violations” in Jerusalem, “settlements”, and the issue of “Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike," said Shawbaki.

The issue of Arab prisoners in Israeli jails once again made headlines as the PA accused the Israeli Shin Ben of assassinating Arafat Juradat, a terrorist detainee who died while in Israeli custody in his Megiddo prison cell.

According to an intermediate autopsy report released by the Health Ministry, there was no evidence of poisoning or physical violence against Jaradat, as the PA had claimed. The fractures in the ribs and hemorrhages on the skin were consistent with the intensive resuscitation efforts on behalf of an Israeli medical team to save his life.  

Meanwhile, Hamas’s Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, on Sunday urged Palestinian Authority Arabs to continue what he termed the “prisoners' intifada” to support terrorist detainees in Israeli jails.

"We will fight in all arenas, take responsibility and pay the toll for the sake of their freedom," Haniyeh said at a photo exhibition in Gaza City in support of prisoners, according to a report in the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency.