Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ virulently anti-Israel speech before the UN General Assembly on Friday was for many Israelis further evidence that he and his Palestinian Authority are not genuine peace partners, and likely killed any hopes of reviving negotiations in the near future.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman believes that when Abbas asserted that the summer’s Gaza war was the start of a new Israeli genocide, he was trying to make the Palestinian cause more relevant amidst a sea of more pressing concerns.
“I can not recall a time when the Palestinian conflict has taken a back seat to such an extent as it has at this [UN] opening session,” Lieberman told Army Radio. “They are talking about everything - Ebola, Iraq, ISIS, the Ukraine. But the Palestinian issue is almost nonexistent.”
If Abbas was to make good on his threats to launch a “surprising” new initiative for the region, he needed to shock the audience in paying attention.
But his aggressive and overly-accusatory rhetoric likely set the peace process even further back in the eyes of Western power brokers that today see less common ground than ever between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships.
That was the assessment of leading Israeli politicians.
“This is not how a peace partner talks,” insisted Communications Minister Gilad Erdan. “Now it is clear why he (Abbas) insists on partnering with the Hamas terrorist organization, with whom he shares the ‘struggle against Israel.’”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon added that “though his speech at the UN, Mahmoud Abbas proves for the umpteenth time he is not a leader who wants peace…and is not really interested in an agreement with Israel based on recognition of the Jewish national homeland.”
Even Abbas’ supporters in the Knesset were taken aback by his fiery UN speech.
“While Israel has acted harshly in Gaza and made things difficult [for the Palestinians], you cannot call it ‘genocide,’” said far-left Meretz Party leader Zahava Gal-On.
Leading Labor Party MK Eitan Cabal said Abbas’ speech was full of “false and outrageous statements,” adding that “these words are worthy of condemnation from all who truly love peace.”
Opposition and Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog agreed that Abbas’ address was riddled with lies and falsehoods, but nevertheless insisted that Israel “prefers Abbas to Hamas.” Speaking to Israel’s Ynet news portal, Herzog spent as much time lambasting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he did criticizing Abbas’ inflammatory speech.
For his part, Netanyahu vowed to fully counter the Palestinian leader’s claims in his own appearance before the UN General Assembly on Monday.