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Likud assails Lapid for seeking peace deal with ‘Holocaust denier’ Abbas

Meretz’s Galon says PM told her he’s eyeing a settlement with the Palestinians, insists ties with aging leader necessary for Israel’s security despite incendiary comments

Photo combination: Prime Minister Yair Lapid leads his first weekly cabinet meeting, July 3, 2022 (left); Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas talks to the media during a press conference in Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, June 14, 2022 (Haim Zach/GPO; Iakovos Hatzistavrou, Pool via AP)
Photo combination: Prime Minister Yair Lapid leads his first weekly cabinet meeting, July 3, 2022 (left); Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas talks to the media during a press conference in Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, June 14, 2022 (Haim Zach/GPO; Iakovos Hatzistavrou, Pool via AP)

Former Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon, who is running to lead the party again, claimed in an interview on Thursday that Prime Minister Yair Lapid wants to forge a peace deal with the Palestinians, days after PA President Mahmoud Abbas made a widely condemned accusation that Israel had committed “50 holocausts” over the years.

Speaking to the Walla news site, Galon said Lapid had told her he “intends to reach a political settlement with the Palestinians via [talks with] Abbas.” The prime minister did not immediately respond to the claim.

Responding to Galon’s interview, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party said on Thursday that Lapid was “advancing dangerous concessions to the Holocaust denier Abbas.”

“After years in which Likud took Abbas off the global agenda, Lapid and Gantz are bringing him back to center stage,” the party said.

Galon, in her interview, also commended Defense Minister Benny Gantz for meetings he held with the PA chief over the past year, a day after both coalition and opposition right-wing lawmakers renewed their criticism of Gantz’s efforts to boost ties with Abbas.

“When Gantz, in a very smart move, invited Abbas to his home, the public understands that this is a partner,” Galon said, referring to Gantz’s meeting with the PA president in December, and claimed that he can be counted on in efforts to forge a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Gantz has met with the PA president several times over the past year, most recently last month to discuss security coordination ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel and the West Bank.

Galon labeled Abbas’s widely condemned comments “blasphemous and insulting” but said was in Israel’s interest to cooperate with the aging leader.

Then-Meretz party chairwoman Zehava Galon seen during a finance committee meeting atthe Knesset on September 11, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Abbas’s remarks, made during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Tuesday, were roundly lambasted in Israel, the United States and Germany, including by Scholz himself, who was criticized for remaining silent during the press conference. Abbas somewhat walked back his comments in a statement released by the Palestinian Authority’s official WAFA news agency on Wednesday, claiming he had merely been intending to highlight Israeli “crimes.”

Gantz defended on Wednesday his meetings with Abbas, claiming that they were necessary due to the ongoing security coordination between Israel and the PA, while also labeling Abbas’s comments “despicable and false.”

“I demanded that he retract them and it is good that he did so,” Gantz said during a tour of the south following last week’s fighting with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) meets with Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar on August 16, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan criticized the reaction of politicians to Abbas’s statement, accusing them of using the situation to squabble with their rivals.

“The fact that at the beginning they condemned Mahmoud Abbas is an obvious reaction. But at the end of the remarks, they started a political argument. This is also wrongful use of the Holocaust, in my opinion,” he said in an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday.

Direct negotiations over a final status agreement with the Palestinians were last held eight years ago.

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