Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Saturday night that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s demand that Israel withdraw to the 1967 boundaries within a year was “a tall tree that will be hard to climb down from.”
In the first high-level Israeli government response to Abba’s ultimatum during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, Gantz, who met with the PA leader last month, commended Abbas for pursuing a diplomatic resolution while lambasting his threats against the Jewish state.
“The fact that he continues to call for a political solution is good, but he issued an ultimatum and climbed a tall tree that will be difficult to climb down from,” Gantz said during an interview with Channel 13 news.
“It is important to remember one thing — no one is going anywhere,” the defense minister said. “It is important to recognize this and that the only way to deal with this reality is to develop security, develop the economy and strengthen the governance of the Palestinian Authority.”
In his speech to the UN General Assembly, Abbas offered to negotiate with Israel over the next 12 months, but threatened to reverse the PA’s recognition of Israel and turn to the International Court of Justice if Jerusalem did not withdraw from territory captured during the 1967 Six Day War.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague is currently investigating both Israel and the Palestinians for war crimes committed since 2014.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan slammed the speech on Friday, saying that it highlighted Abbas and the Palestinians’ rejection of peace. “Those who really support peace and negotiations don’t issue threats and delusional ultimatums from the UN platform,” he said.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said that his government will not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state.
“I oppose a Palestinian state — I think it would be a terrible mistake,” Bennett told the Kan public broadcaster earlier this month.
Nor does Bennett have any plans to meet his Palestinian counterpart.
“I don’t see any logic in meeting someone who is suing IDF soldiers at The Hague and accusing them of war crimes, and at the same time paying salaries to terrorists,” Bennett said in the same interview.
On Saturday, asked if he would meet with Abbas again, Gantz said, “My meeting with him was for security purposes, to ensure stability on the ground and I will do it again according to developments and if necessary.”
During his UN speech, Abbas repeated his call for an international peace conference to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the supervision of the Middle East Quartet, a joint initiative of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
“Do Israel’s rulers dream of maintaining the occupation forever?… Are there not other options — such as liberty, for example?” Abbas asked rhetorically.
The PA president also urged the international community to increase pressure on Israel to end its military rule in the West Bank.
“This is not incitement or antisemitism. It is the duty of every free person in the world,” Abbas said.
Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.