A senior Palestinian official on Thursday rejected Israeli accusations that the Palestinian Authority incites violence against Israelis, countering that the Israeli government has a “longstanding policy” of promoting and glorifying terror.
In a statement, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said “incitement and glorification of terror have been a longstanding policy by this extremist government,” and further accused Israel of trying to “deviate attention [from the stalled peace talks] by inventing new excuses, such as allegations of incitement.”
Erekat said the renaming in April of the state-owned Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Tzrifin to the Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center, in honor of the late prime minister who died in 2012 and formerly headed the Lehi pre-state paramilitary group, was an alleged example of such behavior.
He further accused Israel of “constantly refus[ing] to activate the trilateral committee on incitement, whose members include Israeli, Palestinian and American officials.” It was formed as part of the Wye River Memorandum in 1998, and met every two months until the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000.
Earlier Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas defended payments to Palestinian prisoners, including convicted terrorists, as a “social responsibility,” and said Israel was using the issue as a pretext to avoid peace talks.
The comments were made in a speech that was read on Abbas’s behalf by his foreign affairs adviser Nabil Shaath at the Herzliya Conference, an annual regional security meeting.
“When the international community has an opportunity to move forward with a final status agreement between Israel and Palestine, the governments of Mr. Netanyahu find an excuse to avoid discussing the key issues,” Abbas said, adding that “the most recent pretexts include incitement and social aid provided to the families of Palestinian political prisoners.”
Abbas reiterated his call for the revival of the tripartite Israeli-American-Palestinian committee, through which he said each sides’ complaints could be “verified and dealt with.”
While Israel has not responded to Abbas’s calls to revive the committee, it has been vociferous in demanding that Ramallah cease payments to jailed terrorists and the families of terrorists, arguing the payments glorify and promote violence.
The administration of US President Donald Trump, as part of its efforts to restart peace talks between the two sides, has also been pressing for the Palestinians to cease these payments.
The Knesset last week approved the first reading of a bill that views all money paid over to Palestinian prisoners and the so-called “martyr families” as illegitimate.
The bill, if it passes, will cut around NIS 1 billion ($285 million) from the annual tax revenues Israel collects for the Palestinians and hands over to them — equivalent to the amount that Ramallah paid the so-called “martyr families” and prisoners in 2016.
Earlier this week, Netanyahu accused Abbas of lying that he wants peace and “poisoning” the minds of young Palestinians, amid a resurgent efforts at peace-making by the US.
“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, preceding the arrival in the region of senior White House advisers, Jared Kushner, also US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and special envoy Jason Greenblatt.
His tweets 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.
Palestinian President Abbas tells the world that he educates Palestinian children for peace. That’s a lie. pic.twitter.com/uxF3pd0oan
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) June 19, 2017
“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 last 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.
President Abbas: stop poisoning the minds of Palestinian youth. Educate for peace, not terror.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) June 19, 2017
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.
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.