Israel need not concern itself with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s threat to turn to the United Nations for assistance in establishing a Palestinian state, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday.
“There is this threat that he will go to the UN,” the head of the right-wing Jewish Home party told Israel National News radio. “Let him go to the UN already. Let him do what he wants and we will know how to handle it.”
Regarding the bid for international support for the Palestinian state, Bennett maintained Abbas would be “the first to be damaged” from the move, and that “he has a greater interest in continuing talks than we do.”
“He barely has an economy, no defense establishment, no sovereignty, no borders, he has nothing. So if it doesn’t look like a state and doesn’t sound like a state, it’s not a state, even if the UN says [it is], and we do not need to fear this thing and pay a price to prevent him from going to the UN — let him go to the UN,” he said.
Bennett said he was unaware of a reported Israeli proposal to release a new group of 400 Palestinian security prisoners, in addition to the fourth and final group of longtime terrorism convicts who were set to go free this weekend, if the Palestinian Authority agreed to extend peace talks for another six months.
He stressed, however, that no such initiative could pass a Knesset vote.
“We need to pay for the right to sit down with Abbas?” he asked. “If I were in his place I would never reach an arrangement, because I can get everything I want simply by threatening.”
The Palestinian leadership dismissed the reported Washington-backed offer on Sunday and presented a counteroffer of its own to American mediators – that Israel release 1,000 prisoners of the Palestinian Authority’s choosing. Abbas also demanded that Israel freeze settlement construction and transfer some Area C regions, currently under Israeli control, to the Palestinian Authority.
Bennett said he had spoken to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to argue that in light of Abbas’s continued refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the decision to release prisoners be reevaluated. He did not, however, disclose the prime minister’s response.
Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.