Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of trying to push Israel into a war with Hamas.
In an interview with Hadashot news following a West Bank car-ramming attack that killed two soldiers on Friday, Liberman noted that the next few months would be particularly tense in the run up to Israel’s 70th Independence Day anniversary in May and the coinciding US move of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
While the attacker is said to have acted alone, many Palestinian groups praised the attack, calling it a “heroic” response to the US decision.
However, Liberman said he was less worried about West Bank attacks and more about a full-scale conflict with Hamas in Gaza, the danger of which he blamed on Abbas.
“What particularly stands out is the attempt by Abu Mazen to bring about a deterioration in the [security] situation and bring Israel into conflict with Hamas,” he said, referring to Abbas by his nickname.
Liberman said that Abbas had decided to use the attempted assassination of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah earlier in the week during a visit to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip as an excuse to cut off all funding to Hamas.
“We see Abu Mazen’s efforts to bring about a conflict. He’s trying to cause a deterioration from the moment he stops all the payments, and the humanitarian services like water and health. It’s clear it will lead to a deterioration in the Strip,” Liberman said, without giving a reason why Abbas would want, or benefit from, a war between Hamas and Israel.
Following the roadside bombing on Tuesday, PA civil affairs minister Hussein Al Sheikh said that Hamas, the terror group which rules Gaza, would be held fully responsible for this “murderous” assassination attempt and warned that this was an unprecedented dangerous development that would have grave consequences for Hamas.
Hamas condemned the attack and said it was carried out by groups aiming to undermine its reconciliation bid with the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh later reportedly phoned Hamdallah and condemned the attack and promised investigation.
It was Hamdallah’s second visit to the Gaza Strip since the signing of an Egyptian-brokered “reconciliation” agreement between the West Bank’s governing Fatah faction and Gaza’s Hamas rulers late last year.
Hamas has ruled Gaza since it ousted the Fatah-led PA in 2007.
The PA government has accused Hamas of refusing to allow it to assume its full responsibilities in the Gaza Strip, in accordance with the agreement.
Hamas, for its part, has accused the PA government of failing to lift the sanctions it imposed on the Gaza Strip last year.
The sanctions include, among other things, halting payments to thousands of civil servants and paying for fuel for power stations. Hamas has also rejected the PA’s request that it relinquish security control over the Gaza Strip.
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have been boycotting the US since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.
The PA refused to attend a meeting organized last week by the White House, aimed at finding a solution to the Gaza problem, and attended by representatives of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf nations.
PA officials dismissed the White House meeting as being part of a plot to establish a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.