'A nation inventing its past has no future'

Ministers rip into Abbas, accuse him of distorting history

‘Dr. Abbas and Mr. Abu Mazen, we all know who you are,’ says defense minister; from opposition, Lapid attacks inflated figure of Palestinian refugees

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations Security Council on February 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations Security Council on February 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)

Israeli politicians slammed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for his speech to the UN Security Council Tuesday, branding him a “liar,” a falsifier of history, and accusing him of duplicity.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, the leader of the coalition Yisrael Beiteynu party, alluded to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in his condemnation of Abbas’s speech.

“We have been committed to fostering a culture of peace, rejection of violence,” said Abbas, adding that he would intensify efforts to secure full UN recognition.

“Dr. Abbas and Mr. Abu Mazen, we all know who you are,” Liberman tweeted in response. “With one hand you pay salaries to terrorists who strike at Israel, and their families, and with the other hand you ask the United Nations for recognition.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), meanwhile, accused Abbas of distorting the Palestinians’ history.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks at a conference of local governments in Tel Aviv on February 14, 2018. (Jorge Novominsky)

In his speech, Abbas had said, “We are the descendants of the Canaanites that lived in the land of Palestine 5,000 years ago and continuously remained there to this day.”

“A nation inventing its past has no future,” said Bennett. “The Palestinians’ ancestors may have existed 5,000 years ago, but further south, on the Arab peninsula. I suggest Abbas focus not on building an imaginary past, but rather on creating a practical future.”

From the opposition, Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid accused Abbas of inflating the number of Palestinian refugees, which he had put at 6 million, out of an asserted total of 13 million Palestinians. “Six million Palestine refugees continue to suffer from the cruelty of exile and loss of human security. They continue to wander the world after the loss of their peaceful and stable lives in their homeland,” Abbas said. “They are part of the 13 million Palestinians whose country has not yet been recognized as a full member state of the United Nations, despite the numerous resolutions reaffirming their right to self-determination and statehood on their national land.”

“Abu Mazen’s [Abbas] words about refugees in the UN are a baldfaced lie,” Lapid wrote on Twitter. “It doesn’t make sense that the world allows the Palestinians to be the only people in the world whose refugee status is handed down as an inheritance.”

“There are not millions of Palestinian refugees and there never were. Israel will never agree to the ‘right of return’,” added Lapid.

However, not all Israeli politicians criticized the speech. Zehava Galon, chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party, praised Abbas’s suggestion of an international peace conference, but said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be unable to agree to a deal.

“In any other situation I’d say that Mahmoud Abbas’s proposal for an international peace conference was a good idea, but the prime minister of Israel is a person who does not have a mandate to return territories,” Galon tweeted. “But it’s always fun to see [Israel’s UN] Ambassador [Danny] Danon blaming Abbas for refusing peace, a week after Netanyahu announced he was working to annex the territories.”

In his speech, Abbas had called for a “multilateral international mechanism” to pave the way for Palestinian statehood, while accusing Israel and the United States of obstructing peace efforts.

“To solve the Palestine question, it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference,” the PA president said, adding that he anticipated a summit by mid-2018.

The Palestinian Authority leader immediately left the council chamber following his address, leaving Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon to complain that he was once again “running away” from dialogue.

“You have made it clear, with your words and with your actions, that you are no longer part of the solution. You are the problem,” Danon said.

AFP contributed to this report.

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