Netanyahu assails Abbas in tweetstorm on eve of new US peace bid
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Netanyahu assails Abbas in tweetstorm on eve of new US peace bid

PM accuses Palestinian leader of lying to the world, 'poisoning' minds of Palestinians youth, as Jenin square named after terrorist

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, May 29, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, May 29, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Amid resurgent US peacemaking efforts and the arrival of two top Washington envoys to the region, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Monday of lying that he wants peace and “poisoning” the minds of young Palestinians.

“Palestinian President Abbas tells the world that he educates Palestinian children for peace. That’s a lie,” Netanyahu tweeted in one of a series of angry tweets.

His outburst came as the PA named a new square in Jenin after “martyr” Khaled Nazzal, who the premier noted was “a Palestinian terrorist chief who planned the 1974 Maalot massacre in which Palestinian terrorists murdered 22 school children and 4 adults.”

Palestinian Media Watch reported on the naming of the square Monday, noting that Nazzal, a member of the Democratic Front for Liberation of Palestine, also planned a 1974 abduction in Beit She’an which ended in the killing of four hostages, and a 1984 shooting attack in Jerusalem in which one person was killed and 47 wounded.

“Naming yet another public square for a mass murderer teaches Palestinian youngsters to murder Israelis,” Netanyahu said in further tweets. “That’s the very opposite of peace.

“President Abbas: stop poisoning the minds of Palestinian youth. Educate for peace, not terror,” he wrote.

Netanyahu’s tweets also asserted that Abbas’s Fatah party had “claimed responsibility” for Friday’s terror attack in Jerusalem in which a Border Police woman was killed, noting that the party had decorated “one of the killers’ houses” with its flags.

Fatah did not claim responsibility for the Old City attack, but a Fatah Facebook page claimed one of the assailants came from its ranks, the MEMRI media watchdog reported, noting also that Fatah’s website said his relatives confirmed this. Fatah lambasted Israel for killing the attackers, framing their deaths as a “war crime” and failing to condemn their actions.

The controversy comes as the administration of US President Donald Trump redoubles its efforts to renew peace talks between the sides.

Jason Greenblatt, Special Representative for International Negotiations, arrived in Jerusalem on Monday for meetings to try and advance the diplomatic process. On Wednesday, he will be joined by top Trump adviser, Jared Kushner.

US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the Arab League Summit in Amman, March 28, 2017 (Wafa/Thair Ghnaim)
US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the Arab League Summit in Amman, March 28, 2017 (Wafa/Thair Ghnaim)

Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, will meet with both Netanyahu and Abbas this week to discuss “their priorities and potential next steps,” a senior White House official told The Times of Israel.

Kushner and Greenblatt have been tasked by Trump with relaunching peace negotiations, which the administration has said is a major priority for them. Trump, for his part, has often referred to Israeli-Palestinian peace as the “ultimate deal.”

The White House indicated Sunday that no major breakthroughs were expected but that “the president has asked some of his most trusted advisers to spearhead the peace effort.”

Trump, in a keynote speech at the Israel Museum on his May visit, called on both sides to put aside the “pain and disagreements of the past” and declaring his belief that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders are “ready to reach for peace.”

Netanyahu has repeatedly expressed his deep skepticism of the possibility of reaching a peace deal at present, but has at the same time voiced his commitment to working with the US on the matter.

Trump alongside White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, left, during a meeting at the White House, February 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)
Trump alongside White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, left, during a meeting at the White House, February 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

The PA and its ruling Fatah party have a long history of lionizing “martyrs” — a term given to any who die at the hands of Israel, whether civilians or terrorists, with the latter often characterized as soldiers of the “resistance.”

The UN and Norway recently pulled support for a West Bank women’s center after it was revealed it had been named after a female terrorist. Numerous institutions and public spaces have been named in similar fashion.

In December Fatah honored the “most outstanding operations” against Israel — referencing terror attacks that killed 100 civilians. In October it praised a gunman who killed two Israelis in Jerusalem.

Palestinian television, including children’s programming, is rife with anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli messages.

Israeli officials have long complained that incitement and support from the PA in the form of praise, honorifics, and cash payments to the families of Palestinians killed during attacks encourages further terrorism.

Israel and the US have been pressing the PA to end such payments. Palestinians have said halting stipends is out of the question.

Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

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