Ahead of his trip to Rome for talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s recent address at the European Parliament again proved he was an unsuitable partner for pursuing peace.
Abbas last week told European lawmakers in Brussels that an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem would end global terrorism, and repeated a debunked hoax story claiming that local rabbis had called for poisoning Palestinians’ water supply. Admitting the claim was “baseless,” Abbas on Saturday apologized and walked back the water poisoning allegation.
“Abbas again last week proved to the entire world that he is not interested in direct negotiations with Israel,” the prime minister said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting.
“Worse, he also spread abhorrent lies about the State of Israel and Judaism. True, he quickly apologized, a halfhearted half-apology, but the things he said there were in keeping with what he has said about us on other occasions, including at the UN General Assembly,” Netanyahu said.
“Therefore, I think that people can conclude from this who wants to advance peace and a peace process – and who does not.”
A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday accused Abbas of peddling lies, promoting incitement and spreading blood libels in his speech.
“Israel waits for the day Abbas stops peddling lies and inciting [against Israel]. Until then, Israel will continue to defend itself against Palestinian incitement, which fuels terror,” the statement said.
Other senior Israeli politicians and US-based Jewish groups also issued sharp rebukes of the PA president over his remarks.
Following Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu was set to leave for Rome to meet with Kerry, where, according to reports, the two men will discuss the possibility of reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the imminent publication of an international report expected to criticize Israeli settlement building.
Netanyahu will reportedly also make a last ditch effort to convince Kerry to soften an upcoming report that is expected to be critical of Israel.
The report by the Quartet diplomatic group — the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia — is concerned that Palestinian violence and Israel’s construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is pushing the prospect of peace further away.
Washington, the traditional mediator in Middle East peace efforts, has not taken the lead in recent months, concerned that the situation is not promising and that another round of failed talks would only further embitter both parties.
But France has launched a diplomatic initiative to build international pressure on both sides.
The United States gave the French move a cool reception, but Kerry attended its inaugural meeting in Paris and has called on both sides to take “affirmative steps” to calm tempers and preserve the possibility of peace.
Agencies contributed to this report.