Education Minister Naftali Bennett launched a scathing criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, accusing the Israeli leader of agreeing to speak with a “terrorist,” after the latter said Thursday that he was “perfectly open” to meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to halt the wave of violence that has swept the country in recent weeks.
“Abbas is a terrorist, and we should not speak with him,” Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home party, said during an interview with Channel 2.
The Israeli education minister also asserted that the international community was “yearning for clear statement by the State of Israel that Abbas is not a partner, and that Israel opposes Palestinian statehood.”
“Abbas is the head of the snake of incitement, he created a new blood libel about a child that [IDF] soldiers allegedly murdered. I think it was wrong to plead with him and urge him to meet,” Bennett said.
Bennett was referring to Abbas’s accusations during a speech Wednesday that Israel “executed” 13-year-old Ahmed Manasra “in cold blood,” though the boy is, in fact, recovering in an Israeli hospital from wounds he sustained as he carried out twin stabbing attacks against Jews.
Abbas’s office on Friday said that the PA president had been “misled” regarding Manasra’s condition.
Ahmed Manasra and his 15-year-old cousin, Hassan, were filmed on October 12 stabbing a 25-year-old man in Pisgat Zeev, a neighborhood located in northeastern Jerusalem, causing the man serious injuries before stabbing a second victim, a 13-year-old Jewish boy, in the neck, critically wounding him.
Following Abbas’s erroneous claims against Israeli authorities, Netanyahu accused the Palestinian leader of spreading “incitement and lies.” Later, however, Netanyahu said he was willing to resume peace talks with Abbas “right now,” but at the same time argued that it was impossible to conduct peace negotiations while the PA promotes violence against Israel.
Palestinians carried five separate knife attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces on Saturday; in each attack, the assailant was shot dead.
At a press conference in Jerusalem on Thursday, the prime minister confirmed reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed a summit, possibly in Amman, with Abbas and the Jordanian king, in a bid to put an end to the violence in Israel and the West Bank.
Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.