Israeli ministers on Thursday accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of rejecting peace and embracing terror in his speech to the United Nations, saying it showed he is only interested in revenge and cannot be entrusted with a Palestinian state.
Though the address at the General Assembly in New York was far milder than the angry broadside many had expected, Abbas drew fire for rebuffing the US as a possible peace mediator and hailing terror convicts in Israeli prisons.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beytenu) accused Abbas of pushing the region further into conflict by rejecting peace talks.
“Instead of answering the outstretched hand of an Israeli and US [peace] agreement, all that interests Abbas is to get even, and to push the area into conflict,” the hawkish minister said in a short statement
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) took aim at Abbas’s support for Palestinian terror convicts, who are paid stipends by the Palestine Liberation Organization. In his speech, Abbas seemed to push back against criticism of the payments, paying “tribute to our hero martyrs and prisoners of war.”
“Abbas’s speech is reminder to all of us of one basic fact: A people who sanctify murders and a leader who funds terrorists will never merit a Palestinian state in the heart of Israel. We are here to prevent that,” Bennett tweeted.
Addressing the UN shortly after Abbas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chided the world body for “applauding the head of a regime that pays terrorists.”
“The UN should condemn such a despicable policy,” he said.
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev said the Palestinian leader was living in a “dream” for insisting on Palestinian control of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, Channel 10 news reported.
“The greatest of inciters against Israel continues in his way,” she said. “Somebody should wake him from his dream and tell him that Israel belongs to the Jewish people and its capital is the united Jerusalem. Abbas speaks peace but stirs up war. You don’t make peace with martyrs.”
During his speech Abbas had declared that “Jerusalem is not for sale” and rejected anything short of all of East Jerusalem, including the Old City with all its holy places, as the capital of a Palestinian state.
Minister for Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi said that Israel is willing to talk with the Palestinians for the purpose of reaching a peace deal, despite the difficulties.
“We want to renew the negotiations that were ended by the Palestinians,” Hanegbi said, according to a Hadashot TV news report. “It is not easy for both sides. The aim is to reach an agreement at the end of which the Palestinians will control their lives.”
The last effort at peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.
Both Regev and Hanegbi were at the UN.
Sources close to Abbas told Israel’s Channel 10 news that the Palestinian leader softened his message and used the least aggressive speech of the various versions of the speech which were prepared for him.
Abbas’s comments came amid a deepening rift between Ramallah and Washington due to the PA’s refusal to engage with American officials after the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.
Relations plummeted further in recent weeks after Washington cut off all funding to the UN agency assisting Palestinians, triggering a budget panic, and shuttered the Palestinian mission in Washington.