Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that the Palestinians would not be “dragged” into more violence with Israel, even as a Palestinian attacker stabbed a Jewish seminary student in Jerusalem and shortly before more stabbing attacks in Tel Aviv and Kiryat Arba.
Speaking to business leaders in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas said he is committed to “peaceful popular resistance,” although he backs protesters who recently barricaded themselves inside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque and clashed with Israeli police.
Abbas insisted that the Palestinians were not interested in a further escalation. Still, he said, their “hands are with those who are protecting al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Despite the apparent contradiction, IDF officers on Wednesday confirmed that the Palestinian leader was working to prevent violence.
The army’s assessment differs starkly from the statements of cabinet ministers in recent days, who placed the blame on Abbas for inciting the wave of terror attacks in which four Israelis have been killed and several more injured.
Ministers on the right, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, have said Abbas — who charged in a UN speech last week that Israel was sending “extremists” into the al-Aqsa Mosque — was “inciting” the violence.
The army’s intelligence assessment, as reported by the Ynet news site, is that Abbas is acting to tamp down the violence, including instructing his security services to contain Palestinian rioting and prevent terror attacks against Israelis.
PA security services have continued their close coordination with the IDF, the army says.
Last week, after Abbas’s speech at the UN, Netanyahu criticized him as “deceitful.”
“The speech is deceitful and encourages incitement and disaster in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said in a statement shortly after Abbas declared to the UN General Assembly that the PA was no longer committed to prior agreements with Israel.
Netanyahu rejected Abbas’s claims that the recent actions of Israeli security forces at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount constituted an attempt to change the delicate status quo of the site, revered by both Jews and Muslims.
“Unlike the Palestinians, Israel strictly adheres to the status quo on the Temple Mount, and is committed to continuing to do so in accordance with the agreements between Israel and Jordan and the Waqf,” Netanyahu said in his response.