Abbas says Netanyahu tried to prevent him attending Shimon Peres’s funeral
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Abbas says Netanyahu tried to prevent him attending Shimon Peres’s funeral

In interview with Israeli radio, PA president also assails US, says it has no ‘legal authority’ to deem settlements not illegal

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) sits alongside European Council President Donald Tusk (L) and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl national cemetery during the funeral of former Israeli president Shimon Peres on September 30, 2016. (AFP/Pool/Abir Sultan)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) sits alongside European Council President Donald Tusk (L) and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl national cemetery during the funeral of former Israeli president Shimon Peres on September 30, 2016. (AFP/Pool/Abir Sultan)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to stop him from coming to president Shimon Peres’s funeral in Jerusalem in September 2016.

Abbas made the assertion in an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday, in which he also addressed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement the night before that the Trump administration does not view Israel’s settlements in the West Bank as illegal.

In recent years, the PA president has rarely granted interviews to Israeli news outlets.

According to Army Radio, Abbas asserted that Netanyahu told him before Peres’s funeral at the Mount Herzl military cemetery: “Do not come in your car. There is no approval [for you].”

The news outlet reported that Abbas said he responded to the prime minister: “How will I come? By foot?” It also quoted the PA president as saying he threatened to publicize what Netanyahu had told him.

Israel ultimately granted Abbas permission to attend the funeral, which he did alongside three senior Palestinian officials.

At the funeral, he shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, as well as with President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama.

Netanyahu did not acknowledge Abbas’s presence in his speech at the ceremony, though he did note the attendance of several other leaders and officials.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara meet with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas during the state funeral of late Israeli president Shimon Peres, held at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on September 30, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the branch of the Defense Ministry responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, referred questions about Abbas’s comments to the Prime Minister’s Office.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Tzvia Walden, Peres’s daughter, said Abbas had never told her that Netanyahu tried to stop him from coming to her father’s funeral.

“He did not tell me, but it does not surprise me,” she said in a phone call.

Walden added that Abbas was originally seated in the second row, which she said was amended only after she demanded he be moved to the first.

“I had to make sure his seat assignment was changed,” she said.

Abbas also told Army Radio that the US does not have “the legal authority” to declare that settlements are not illegal.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes a statement during a press conference at the US Department of State in Washington, DC, on November 18, 2019. (JIM WATSON/AFP)

Pompeo had told reporters at the State Department on Monday that “the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law,” breaking with decades of US policy.

While Israel has heaped praise on the statement, numerous Palestinian officials have blasted it.

In addition to the Palestinians, most of the international community considers settlements to be illegal. That stance is based in part on the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population to occupied territory.

But Israel maintains that the West Bank is not an occupied territory but rather disputed land that was captured from Jordan in a defensive war in 1967.

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