Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman charged Tuesday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was worse than his predecessor, Yasser Arafat.
The Yisrael Beytenu party leader accused both Palestinian leaders of being sworn anti-Semites and proponents of terrorism, but said that Abbas is far more duplicitous than Arafat was.
“On the tenth anniversary of Arafat’s death we see that there is no difference between Arafat and Abu Mazen [Abbas]: both are Jew-haters who believe in terror and promote terror,” the foreign minister said in a statement.
“The only difference is that Abu Mazen is more dangerous because he knows how to mask his true face more effectively,” he added.
Liberman’s fierce criticism came on the heels of an address by Abbas, in which the PA president warned Israel against “contaminating” the Temple Mount, and said that allowing Jewish prayer at the site would result in a global religious war.
The PA leader also maintained that the rioters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the disputed holy site had the right to defend themselves against Israeli police and Jewish visitors, and said Muslims and Christians would never recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“Keep the settlers and the extremists away from Al-Aqsa and our holy places,” Abbas demanded. “We will not allow our holy places to be contaminated.”
Abbas praised the “heroes” stationed on the Temple Mount combating Jewish visitors and police, who “have the right to defend themselves and the holy places” if attacked.
The PA president’s speech also drew an angry response from Hamas, after Abbas accused the Islamist movement of trying “to destroy” efforts to broker national unity through a series of bomb blasts in Gaza last week.
Following his speech, Hamas denounced Abbas as “sectarian and partisan.”
“Abbas’s speech is web of lies, insults and disinformation,” said Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza.
“What the Palestinian people need is a courageous president.”
Liberman has denounced Abbas for what he said was the PA leader’s glorification of terror in the attempted assassination of Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick, and on Monday called for tougher measures against the Palestinian rioters. The foreign minister also vocally opposed MK visits to the Temple Mount last week, terming the move “a somewhat cynical exploitation of the complicated political situation.”
AFP contributed to this report.