Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday that the USA was in the midst of an "active discussion" with the Palestinian Authority on the issue of support for convicted terrorists, a significant change from a statement he made Tuesday on the same subject, in which he declared that the Palestinians have "changed their policy" of financially supporting families of convicted terrorists.
Tillerson said the policy reversal came as a result of pressure applied during President Donald Trump's recent visit to the Middle East, which included a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as a meeting earlier in May during Abbas's visit to the White House.
Before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the top members questioned the nature of the cuts.
"I have to say that I didn't see any indication that the Palestinian Authority stopped or intends to stop payments to terrorists and terrorists' families", Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Kan Radio on Wednesday.
"They could perhaps be labeled differently", he added, indicating that the label "martyr" may no longer be used, but that the payments "are not going to be stopped".
Issa Karake, Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs, called the payments "a national, social and humanitarian duty".
But Tillerson said the Trump administration believes that the new U.S. approach is directly supporting the Cuban government in violation of American law.
Palestinian officials told Tillerson "they have to support widows and orphans".
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.
Not so, said Israeli and Palestinian officials alike.
"Even with reductions in funding, we will continue to be the leader in worldwide development, global health, democracy and good governance initiatives, and humanitarian efforts", Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday.
The "martyrs' fund" was set up in 1967 by the Palestine Liberation Organization, the group that formally represents all Palestinians.