Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday slammed the international community and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for failing to speak out against explicit calls for Israel’s destruction by Hamas leaders on Saturday.
Speaking at a Hanukkah ceremony with the foreign press, Netanyahu contrasted Europe’s condemnations of Israel for approving construction plans in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, with its lack of response to Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal’s weekend speech in Gaza, in which he said the Palestinians would “not give up an inch of Palestine,” and that “Jihad and armed resistance is the only way.”
Said Netanyahu: “This weekend, the leaders of Hamas openly called for the destruction of Israel. Where was the outrage? Where were the UN resolutions? Where was President Abbas?”
Soon after Netanyahu spoke on Monday afternoon, the EU did issue a statement saying that it found “inflammatory statements by Hamas leaders that deny Israel’s right to exist unacceptable. The European Union will never cease its efforts to combat terrorism which seeks to undermine the openness and tolerance of societies through indiscriminate acts of violence against civilians.”
The prime minister drew a direct parallel to the outcry in the international community over Israeli plans to expand settlements beyond the Green Line. Numerous countries have deeply criticized plans to develop the sensitive E1 area east of Jerusalem, and the Israeli ambassadors in Britain, Brazil, France, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, Egypt and the European Union were summoned for sharp dressing-downs late last week.
“Why weren’t Palestinian diplomats summoned in European and other capitals to explain why the PA president not only refused to condemn this, but actually declared his intention to unite with Hamas?” Netanyahu asked. “There was nothing. There was silence. And it was a deafening silence. Well, we can’t accept that. We can’t accept that, when Jews build homes in [Israel’s] ancient capital, the international community has no problem finding its voice, but when Palestinian leaders openly call for the destruction of Israel, the one and only Jewish state, the world is silent.”
Hamas chief Mashaal completed a three-day visit to Gaza on Sunday. In a speech marking the terrorist group’s 25th anniversary, he reiterated his movement’s commitment to wipe out the State of Israel. “We are not giving up an inch of Palestine. It will remain Islamic and Arab for us and nobody else. Jihad and armed resistance is the only way.”
Speaking to mostly foreign reporters at the Government Press Office’s annual Hanukkah reception, Netanyahu said that Israel “remains committed to a two-state solution,” but rebuffed calls by the international community to halt settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, however, slammed Netanyahu for ostensibly deepening Israel’s pariah status by announcing plans for building that, she said, “will never actually be built.”
Netanyahu made his statements as 27 foreign ministers of EU countries were convening in Brussels to debate Israel’s approval last week of the thousands of housing units to be built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The meeting was expected to result in a harsh condemnation of Israel’s decisions.
Ahead of the meeting, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said Europe’s political view of the Middle East has changed profoundly because of Israel’s advancement of plans to build 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Bildt said the Israeli plans had caused “extreme concern” in the European Union. He referred in particular to the E1 project, which would drive a wedge between the northern and southern flanks of the West Bank.
“What the Israelis did on E1 has shifted opinions in Europe,” Bildt said as he arrived for the meeting. “I don’t think the Israelis are aware of this.”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he expected “the entire EU will be strongly opposed” to the settlement building.