Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for shaking hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the funeral of former president Shimon Peres Sunday, joining a number of nattering naysayers on both sides unhappy with the short encounter.
Abbas has come under withering criticism from many in Palestinian society for attending the funeral of the Israeli president in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery Friday, and some in Israel’s right have also chided Netanyahu for shaking hands with the Palestinian leader.
“I respect the fact that [Abbas] came,” Shaked told Army Radio on Sunday, “but we must also remember that at the same time he is spreading hate and incitement. That must also be taken into account.”
Shaked noted that though she was at the funeral, she made it a point not to shake the hand of Abbas, who attended the funeral with four other senior Palestinian officials.
“I can’t say what [Netanyahu and his wife] should have done. I can only tell you that I was there and I did not [shake hands with Abbas],” she said.
Meetings or even handshakes between Abbas and Netanyahu have been extremely rare as peace talks have remained moribund over the last several years. The two last met formally in 2010 and briefly shook hands at a Paris forum on climate change a year ago.
Both leaders insist they are willing to meet, but so far no summit has taken place. Netanyahu has accused Abbas and his government of fostering incitement to violence against Israelis, helping fuel months of deadly fighting.
On Friday, the two exchanged polite greetings as world leaders gathered on Mount Herzl to pay their final respects to Israel’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning former president and prime minister. Abbas also shook hands with other Israeli figures, including President Reuven Rivlin.
Later that day Jewish Home party leader Bennett criticized Netanyahu and others for shaking hands with the PA president.
He wrote on Facebook “I can’t understand why Israelis are standing in line to shake the hand of Abbas, who today encourages the murder of Israelis and pays a monthly allowance to the families of [Palestinian] killers.”
“He should prevent funerals from needing to take place before attending any,” Bennett went on, in reference to the wave of Palestinian terror attacks over the past year that have claimed the lives of more than 30 Israelis and several foreign nationals.
Despite criticism from many Palestinians, including a Hamas spokesman who wished him death, Abbas’s Fatah party defended his participation in the funeral.
A spokesperson said that Abbas had no regrets over his attendance, Israel Radio reported Saturday.
He attended because he wanted to pay his respects to the former president, the spokesperson said, adding that it was the correct decision, even though it was not easy or popular.
Before the ceremony, a Palestinian official said the visit was meant to send “a strong message” to Israel that Palestinian are serious about peace.
Abbas sat in the front row at the funeral ceremony, along with other dignitaries such as US President Barack Obama, Netanyahu, Rivlin and Britain’s Prince Charles. He was flanked by European Council President Donald Tusk and Hungarian President Viktor Orban.
On Saturday, Abbas was heckled and shouted down as he gave speeches in Bethlehem and Birzeit University.
His motorcade was also booed as it drove by the Deheisha refugee camp near Bethlehem.
The PA president’s participation had also been met with criticism from his Fatah party’s rival, the Islamist terror group Hamas.
The group, which rules the Gaza Strip and ousted the Fatah party in a violent coup in 2007, said that Abbas’s participation disregarded the blood of the Palestinian people.
“This man who claims to represent Palestinian public opinion is by religious standards a Jew. For the millionth time: He doesn’t represent us, he is a creation of Israel and I hope he joins Peres in hell,” Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior leader in the Gaza Strip, told Iranian TV .