Abbas official: Netanyahu’s invitation to address Knesset ‘bluff’
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Abbas official: Netanyahu’s invitation to address Knesset ‘bluff’

In apparent rejection of overtures to PA leader, Palestinian source says PM’s address at UN was ‘predictable’ and aimed at Israelis

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, September 22, 2016 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, September 22, 2016 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

A Palestinian Authority official late Thursday dismissed an invitation extended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to speak at the Knesset as a “bluff.”

In his address at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Thursday, Netanyahu also offered to speak at the PA headquarters in Ramallah to advance peace. At the same time, the prime minister delivered a scathing rebuke of the Palestinian leadership, accusing it of “poisoning the future” by inciting terror through educational and TV programs and blasting it for its refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

The prime minister insisted that peace talks should resume though direct contact, telling Abbas that he is invited to speak “to the Israeli people in the Knesset in Jerusalem” and that he “would gladly come to speak [at] the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.”

“The speech was designed to placate domestic public opinion,” an unnamed Palestinian official told the Ynet news website in response. “It was a predictable speech, including the invitation to the Knesset. In an apparent rejection of the invitation, the Palestinian official termed it “bluff.”

The official said the PA “knows exactly what his [Netanyahu’s] plan is and it doesn’t include the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state.”

“Netanyahu is committed to the one-state solution and not two states,” the official added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 22, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 22, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

In his remarks before world leaders, Netanyahu addressed Abbas directly, who had spoken only minutes before, saying: “You have a choice to make. You can continue to stoke hatred, as you did today. Or you can confront hatred and work with me to establish peace between our two nations.”

Reiterating that he remains “committed to a vision of peace based on two states for two people,” Netanyahu said that “Israel is ready to negotiate all final status issues,” and that “the road to peace is through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not New York.”

“This conflict is not about the settlements, it never was,” he said in direct contradiction to Abbas’s comments earlier. “It’s always been about the existence of a Jewish state.

“If the Palestinians had said yes to a Jewish state in 1947 there would have been no war… and when they do finally say yes to a Jewish state we will be able to end this conflict once and for all,” Netanyahu said.

The prime minister also lambasted the Palestinians over their plan to sue the British government for the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which supported “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” according to its text.

“That’s almost 100 years ago,” said Netanyahu. “Talk about being stuck in the past! The Palestinians might as well sue Iran for the Cyrus declarations, or file a class action suit against Abraham, for buying land in Hebron,” he added, referencing a Persian edict allowing Jews to return to Judea in 539 BCE and the Biblical patriarch.

In his UN General Assembly address, Abbas on Thursday accused Israel of destroying the prospects for a two-state solution and said he would seek a United Nations Security Council resolution against West Bank settlements.

He called on the Jewish state to cease settlement expansion, “collective punishment and its demolition of Palestinian homes” and “extrajudicial executions and…the arrest of our people,” as well as “aggression and provocations against the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque” on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

He charged that “Israeli aggression against our Muslim and Christian holy sites is playing with fire” and singled out Israel’s “illegal settlement enterprise” for undermining “the realization of the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders.”

Turning to the United Kingdom, Abbas called for an apology for the Balfour Declaration, Britain’s 1917 statement of commitment to found a Jewish state in Palestine. He said London should “draw the necessary lessons and bear its historic, legal, political, material and moral responsibilities for the consequences of [the Balfour] Declaration, including an apology to the Palestinian people for the catastrophes, miseries and injustices that it created, and to act to rectify this historic catastrophe and remedy its consequences, including by recognition of the State of Palestine.”

He added that while Palestinians sought peace, he doubted there was a partner for a deal in Israel.

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