Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel’s former foreign minister of threatening to assassinate him, adding that he is defenseless in the face of Israeli threats.
During an extensive interview with Lebanese news channel Al-Mayadeen on Friday, excerpts of which were reported last week by Palestinian news agency Ma’an, Abbas said Avigdor Liberman and an Israeli deputy prime minister whom he did not name have publicly called for his physical removal.
“Israel sent other messages, death threats, etcetera — it’s not important,” Abbas told the channel. “Liberman sent messages [reading] ‘This man needs to be gotten rid of physically,’ and the day before yesterday another man, the deputy prime minister, said the same thing. This is well known in Israel, but Netanyahu comes out and says, ‘These men don’t represent us.’”
Last August, Liberman sent a letter to the United States, the European Union and the United Nations describing Abbas as an “obstacle to peace” and calling for his ouster. Prime Minister Netanyahu distanced himself from the letter — which nowhere mentioned physically harming Abbas — claiming it did not represent government policy. Liberman has also called Abbas “a political terrorist.”
In the interview, Abbas said he would be helpless in the face of an Israeli decision to eliminate him.
“This was no slip of the tongue,” he said, referring to Liberman’s supposed statements against him. “He can do it if he wants to. Why? Because we are still under occupation. I enter and exit with Israeli permission. I am exposed, and have nothing to protect me. The proof is that they can assassinate any man at any place.”
Addressing the death of his predecessor Yasser Arafat, Abbas said he had no doubt that the former Palestinian leader was assassinated, though it was yet unclear by whom.
“There is no doubt, he is a shahid (martyr),” Abbas said.
Abbas said he asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to appeal to Israel to allow 150,000 Palestinian refugees from the Yarmouk refugee camp to enter the Palestinian territories.
“Four days later I received a surprising answer: They agree, but on one condition. That any returning refugee will give up his right of return. So I left it.”
A source in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office denied that Israel agreed to the entry of refugees from Syria.
Referring to his personal relationship with Arafat, Abbas said that the deceased president’s good points highly outweighed his shortcomings.
“I always focused on his strong side and worked with him on that basis. Therefore, historically, we never had disagreements, neither personal nor political.”
Abbas noted that the first dispute with Arafat occurred when he was appointed PA prime minister in 2003, a position that never existed before and was created under American pressure to reduce Arafat’s authorities.
“It was not in my nature to fill that position, so I quit,” Abbas told Al-Mayadeen.