President Reuven Rivlin on Monday lambasted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for his fiery speech the night before, likening the PA leader’s comments to “the things that led him to be accused years ago of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.”
“What we heard yesterday from Mahmoud Abbas was terrible. He returned back to the ideas he expressed decades ago, when they were no less terrible,” Rivlin told a visiting delegation from the American pro-Israel lobby AIPAC at his Jerusalem residence.
“To say Israel is the result of a Western conspiracy to settle Jews in land belonging to Arab populations? To say that the Jewish people has no connection with the land of Israel? He forgot many things, and said exactly the things that led him to be accused years ago of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial,” Rivlin said.
Opening a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council in Ramallah, Abbas had delivered a lengthy and extremely combative speech. The main target of his anger was the US administration, but he also aimed his vitriol at the Jewish state. Among other things, the PA leader claimed that Israel was established as “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism” to safeguard European interests.
He also that implied that European Jews during the Holocaust chose to suffer “murder and slaughter” rather than emigrate to British-held Palestine, and alleged that Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion imported Jews from Yemen and Iraq to the country against their will.
Zionist leaders in the 1950s then deliberately stirred trouble in Arab countries in order to forcibly move Middle Eastern Jews into the sparsely populated nascent state, he claimed.
“These are precisely the things that block us,” Rivlin said, speaking in English. “In his words he is rejecting our return to our homeland, even though Abu Mazen [Abbas] knows very well that the Quran itself recognizes the Land of Israel as our land. Without this basic recognition we will not be able to build trust and move forward.”
Rivlin’s remarks on Abbas’s speech came on the heels of similar condemnations by top Israel politicians.
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said the speech was “laced with vile anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”
“His incitement against Israel and the United States is extremely dangerous and should be condemned by anyone interested in peaceful coexistence,” the Likud minister added.
On Sunday night, minutes after Abbas concluded his two-hour speech, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan accused the Palestinian leader of “destroying any chance for peace.”
Dov Lieber contributed to this report.