Amid floundering peace talks and with US Secretary of State John Kerry in the region once again, a senior Palestinian official reportedly indicated he fears Israel could try to assassinate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
In comments printed on Friday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the London-based daily Asharq Alawsat that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman had sent letters to senior European officials, demanding Abbas’s removal and framing him as a danger to Israel.
“This is the conduct of the Israelis,” said Erekat. “Before they killed [Yasser] Arafat by poisoning there were also voices from the [Ariel] Sharon government saying that Arafat is an obstacle and that he must be gotten rid of.” Independent French, and later Russian forensic experts have ruled out the possibility that the late Palestinian leader was poisoned.
Erekat, who has resigned from his official post repeatedly but has not left, has a history of wild accusations against Israel.
In 2002, he labeled an Israeli offensive in the West Bank town of Jenin a “massacre” and charged that the IDF had killed over 500 Palestinians in the incident. Official Palestinian figures later put the death toll at between 53 and 56, with more than 20 Israeli soldiers killed in bitter fighting, and Erekat faced widespread criticism in the Western media.
Kerry on Friday afternoon met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chief peace negotiator Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Earlier in the day, he met with Liberman. In the evening, the secretary was heading to Ramallah to meet with Abbas.