Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Israeli opposition leader and Labor Party chief Isaac Herzog Saturday that the IDF search operation for three kidnapped Israeli teens was exerting excessive pressure on the Palestinian population.
However, Abbas also pledged the full cooperation of PA security forces, who, he assured, were doing everything possible to find the teens, who were kidnapped on June 12.
Herzog published the details of the conversation in a Facebook status on Saturday.
The opposition leader said he conveyed to Abbas his appreciation for the latter’s statements on Wednesday at the Arab League in which the PA president condemned the kidnappings of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-ad Shaar, and pledged to continue cooperating with Israel to help locate them.
Herzog joined Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in hailing Abbas’s comments earlier this week.
Speaking on Channel 2’s “Meet the Press,” Livni said Saturday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s verbal attacks on Abbas — blaming the abduction on the unity pact the PA signed with Hamas, and holding the PA responsible for the fate of the youths — were a mistake.
“The immediate goal is to find the abductors and the kidnapped teenagers. At the same time, Israel must hit Hamas, both militarily and politically. In addition, we must also work with the Palestinian Authority government and try to find a way to renew peace negotiations with [Abbas].
“There is no point in attacking Abbas; we must hit Hamas and hit it hard. We must change strategy vis-a-vis Hamas and Abbas,” she said.
Livni said the IDF operation in the West Bank to locate the teens, now in its ninth day, was justified. “I support the IDF operation against Hamas in the West Bank,” she said.
Livni also reiterated her praise for Abbas’s remarks at the Arab League on Wednesday.
Shortly after Livni’s interview, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement calling for Abbas to disavow Hamas.
“[Mahmoud Abbas's] words will have real meaning when he breaks his alliance with Hamas, the terror organization that is responsible for the kidnapping of the three boys and calls for Israel’s destruction,” the PMO said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Abbas called in Arabic for the release of the three teenagers and said, “Those who perpetrated this act want to destroy us [the Palestinians].”
“The three young men are human beings just like us and must be returned to their families,” he added, pledging to maintain the PA’s security coordination with Israel. “We are working with [Israel] to get them back.”
Abbas’s statements drew fierce criticism from Hamas officials, some of whom accused him of being an Israeli stooge.
Israel has claimed Hamas is behind the abduction. While celebrating the kidnapping, Hamas officials have denied any connection to it.
Since the kidnapping Thursday, June 12, of Fraenkel, Shaar and Yifrach, who were last seen at a hitchhiking post near the Alon Shvut settlement in Gush Etzion south of Jerusalem, thousands of Israeli troops have searched hundreds of locations in the West Bank and arrested more than 350 Palestinians, many from Hamas, including some who were freed in a 2011 prisoner exchange for Hamas-kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Israeli officials have publicly stated that in addition to rescuing the teens, weakening Hamas and breaking up the Palestinian unity government are goals in the operation.
In light of the ongoing crisis, the Palestinian Authority has slowed progress in the reconciliation process with Hamas that led to the establishment earlier this month of a Palestinian unity government.