Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday said his fellow Israeli ministers should boycott Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whom he accused of inciting against Israel.
“He must not be legitimized… He can’t be a partner for anything,” Liberman said during a faction meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu party at the Knesset. “He is a terrorist just like the rest of the terrorists. He just deals in political terror, which sometimes is even more dangerous and harmful than conventional terror.”
The comments were widely seen as a swipe at Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who has met several times with Abbas.
Since the government was sworn into office close to a year ago, Abbas has held a series of meetings with senior Israeli officials, marking a sharp change from relations under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu.
The latest was a meeting between Abbas and Shin Bet director Ronen Bar last month in Ramallah, which followed a meeting in November 2021 shortly after Bar took over as head of the domestic security service. Abbas has also met twice with Gantz, as well as with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz.
Bennett has repeatedly stated that he has no intention of meeting Abbas, since he believes such a sit-down would have no value, but he has not prevented cabinet ministers and other officials from doing so.
Liberman accused the Palestinian leader of “cynically taking advantage of the past month’s events.”
“A person who files lawsuits against IDF soldiers over war crimes cannot be a partner in anything,” he said.
“The pilgrimages to Abbas and the meetings with him must stop,” he declared.
But during a meeting of his Yesh Atid faction in Knesset, Lapid said that Israel will keep up its contact with the Palestinian Authority, and added that Gantz “did right” in meeting with Abbas.
Liberman’s comments came amid heightened tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority following the shooting death of Al-Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh last week.
During a state memorial last week, Abbas charged that Israel was responsible for her death and vowed that the matter would be taken to the International Criminal Court because Israel “cannot go unpunished.”
Her death came amid soaring tensions in the West Bank in recent weeks. Palestinian terrorists have crossed the fence into Israel to commit terror attacks, that left 19 people dead in Israel and the West Bank since late March.
Israeli forces have responded by stepping up raids and arrests in an attempt to restore order, and increasing its patrols along the West Bank border. The security operations have often led to armed clashes with Palestinians.
Abbas has also been vocal throughout April over tensions at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which erupted into violent clashes between Palestinians and security forces, accusing Israel of violating the fragile religious status quo at the site.
Israeli officials have denied the accusation, saying no changes have been made to the arrangements at the holy site and blaming extremist and terrorist elements for riling up tensions.