Foreign minister calls for new elections to oust Palestinian president

Avigdor Liberman, in letter to Middle East quartet, says Mahmoud Abbas is an obstacle to peace

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is an obstacle to peace and should be replaced as the Palestinian leader in the next elections, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman recently told his counterparts from the Middle East Quartet.

Liberman urged the US, Russia, EU and UN to set a date for new elections in the Palestinian Authority, so that Abbas could be replaced at the helm of the PA’s leadership, Haaretz reported on Wednesday.

The Hebrew daily obtained a letter sent by Liberman to the foreign ministers of the international quartet on the middle east, in which Liberman openly called for intervention in the PA’s political leadership. Abbas was acting against Israel not with terrorism, but through legal and diplomatic warfare, the letter said.

Liberman wrote it was time the Palestinian public voted for new leadership.

“Due to Abbas’ weak standing, and his policy of not renewing negotiations, which is an obstacle to peace, the time has come to consider a creative solution, to think ‘outside the box,’ in order to strengthen the Palestinian leadership,” he wrote.

He stressed that elections had been scheduled for 2010, but had been postponed time and again since their original date, and said the PA was riddled with corruption.

Abbas was “uninterested, or unable… to reach an agreement that would bring an end to the conflict including addressing all the core issues,” Liberman wrote.

The claims in the letter weren’t only assertions, but could be “corroborated by the Jordanians,” who tried to restart the talks between Israel and the PA. “This situation is very clear to the Jordanians,” the foreign minister wrote.

A page from Liberman's letter to the Middle East quartet, August 20 (photo credit: screen capture
A page from Liberman’s letter to the Middle East quartet, August 20 (photo credit: screen capture

Despite a number of “significant” moves Liberman cited as Israel working to help the Palestinians, he said there had been “a rise in the Palestinian activity against Israel in the diplomatic and legal arenas.”

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Army Radio on Wednesday the Israeli government needed to distance itself from Liberman’s call. “Netanyahu must clarify [Liberman’s letter] is not his position,” Erekat said.

If the prime minister doesn’t make that statement the Palestinians will look at the letter “as the government’s position,” Erekat said. That would raise questions about Israel’s intentions toward the Palestinians.

Haaretz said Liberman decided to write the letter after a meeting with 20 ambassadors to Israel. He felt his messages on the Palestinian topic weren’t being passed on to the foreign ministers of certain countries in the best way possible, a source told the paper.

Talks between Israel and the PA have been frozen for nearly two years, though there have been low-level contacts. Abbas has said he will only come to the table once Israel institutes a moratorium on building in the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for talks without preconditions.

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