Defense minister: Abbas ‘lost his senses,’ gave up on peace
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Defense minister: Abbas ‘lost his senses,’ gave up on peace

Avigdor Liberman says PA choosing confrontation with Israel and the US; education minister Bennett says fiery speech marks end of Abbas era

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C-R) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018.(AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C-R) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018.(AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Monday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had “lost his senses” following his fiery speech against US President Donald Trump.

Liberman told Israel’s Army Radio that Abbas’s address on Sunday symbolized his giving up on the prospect of peace negotiations and opting instead for a confrontation with both Israel and the United States.

“This speech signals that he’s lost self-control, lost the support of the moderate Arab world and has clearly given up on negotiations,” said Liberman of Abbas.

Abbas sharply escalated his rhetoric in a speech on Sunday, lashing out at Trump over recent policy moves, such as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Abbas also slammed Trump’s recent Twitter comment threatening to cut American aid and alleging the Palestinians were no longer willing to negotiate a peace deal with Israel.

“Since when did we reject negotiations?” Abbas told members of the Palestinian Central Council, a key decision-making body. “Shame,” Abbas said, addressing Trump.

To laughter from the crowd, Abbas then added the phrase Yekhreb beitak, literally translated as “may your house be demolished.”

In colloquial Palestinian Arabic, the phrase can have different connotations, from a harsh to a casual insult, but its use in a widely watched speech seemed jarring.

“This speech is the destruction of [Abbas’s] house,” said Liberman on Monday.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu party at the Knesset, on January 08, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the right-wing Jewish Home Party, said that based on its content and style, the speech was Abbas’s swan song.

“Abu Mazen is at the end of his road, toward the end of his rule and the end of his life,” he told Army Radio, referring to Abbas by his nickname. “There appears to be no Palestinian partner [for peace] and it is unlikely there will be.”

In an address December 6 from the White House, Trump recognized Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government. The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Abbas has said that by siding with the Israelis on a sensitive issue, Trump had destroyed Trump the US’s credibility as a Mideast peace broker.

“We told Trump we will not accept his project, the ‘deal of the century,’ which has become the ‘slap of the century,’” said Abbas on Sunday. “But we will slap back.”

“We do not take instructions from anyone, and say ‘no’ to anyone if it is about our destiny, our cause, our country and our people… 1,000 times no,” he said.

The Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on Abbas’s speech.

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