Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s praise for the suspected Palestinian would-be assassin of a Jewish Temple Mount activist drew stiff condemnation from Israel’s chief peace negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, on Monday.
Livni joined other Israeli leaders who earlier lashed out at Abbas for praising the actions of East Jerusalem resident Mu’taz Hijazi, the suspected shooter of Rabbi Yehudah Glick in an apparent attempted assassination last week.
Such praise was “not only risible but also dangerous,” Livni warned on Monday in an interview with Israel Radio.
“You can’t on the one hand go round saying you condemn violence and on the other hand send letters encouraging it,” she said. The move “could lead [Abbas] to lose control” of the Palestinian street amid rising Arab-Jewish tensions, “and the responsibility for that would also fall on Abbas.”
Hijazi was killed the morning after Glick’s shooting in a firefight with police who had arrived at his home in Jerusalem’s Abu Tor neighborhood to arrest him.
“With anger, we have received the news of the vicious assassination crime committed by the terrorists of the Israeli occupation army against [your] son Mu’taz Ibrahim Khalil Hijazi, who will go to heaven as a martyr defending the rights of our people and its holy places,” Abbas wrote in a condolence letter sent Saturday to Hijazi’s family.
Livni also criticized right-wing Jewish groups who sought to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, telling Israel Radio that such efforts had the potential to “change the conflict with the Palestinians into a regional conflict with all the states of the Arab and Muslim world, including Jordan and Egypt.”
Livni also addressed the possibility that peace could not be achieved with the Palestinian Authority.
“Israel has to act according to its interests,” she said, “and if there is no [Palestinian] partner interested in reaching an agreement,” Israel had other options, including “leading an Israeli-American initiative in cooperation with regional states, and unilateral decisions coordinated with the international community.”
Abbas’s letter was also condemned Sunday night by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
“While we’re trying to calm tempers, Abbas sends a condolence letter for the death of someone who attempted to commit a despicable murder. It’s time the international community condemn him for such deeds,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
The letter “testifies more than anything else to the fact that Abbas is indeed a partner: a partner for terror, a partner to terrorists, a partner of murderers,” Liberman said in a statement on Facebook.
Abbas’s letter amounts to “open support for terror and encouragement of further murders,” he wrote.
“I call on the international community to reject and condemn this man who is leading the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a violent, frightful place.”
Israel Radio’s Gal Berger said an Abbas spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the letter and posted a photo of it on Twitter.
לפי המופץ בפייסבוק זהו נוסח מברק התנחומים ששיגר עבאס למשפחת המתנקש ביהודה גליק אך לנוסח עצמו לא קיבלתי אימות לפי שעה pic.twitter.com/PvYG6fb9nB
— Gal Berger גל ברגר (@galberger) November 2, 2014
Israeli security services reported that the suspected attacker was killed the next morning by the police’s special anti-terror unit after he opened fire on officers who came to arrest him.
Hijazi, who worked at the Begin Center, had been arrested in 2000 and served 11 years in prison. He had originally been sentenced to six years for membership in the Islamic Jihad terror group and for participation in violent rioting. Additional time was added to his sentence after he was tried for assaulting a prison guard.
Renee Ghert-Zand, Haviv Rettig Gur and AFP contributed to this report.