Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman declared Monday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is an “obstacle” to peace “that needs to be removed.”
In a press conference, Lieberman angrily chastised the Palestinian leader, saying Abbas is leading a campaign to delegitimize Israel internationally, comparing him to the overthrown dictators of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and urging him to resign.
“He has been threatening to return the keys and resign? That would not be a threat but a blessing, and I wish he would finally do it,” Lieberman said. “Whoever comes after him will be better … there is no lack of Palestinians who studied in the West — educated people with Western values with whom we can talk.”
But Lieberman failed to elaborate on exactly how Abbas is an obstacle to the peace process. Lieberman did imply that Abbas was a terrorist-sympathizer and a racist, charging that he is naming squares after terrorists and seeking a Palestinian state free of Jews.
But it seems Abbas’s only major crime is seeking statehood for his people through recognition at the United Nations, exactly as Israelis did at the midpoint of the 20th century. That is in fact what has led to the recent harsh rhetoric from Israeli leaders, whereas they seemed much more contented while the peace talks were stalled and failing.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top aide to Abbas responded: “Lieberman is an enemy of peace and he should be condemned by every rational voice in Israel. If this position represents or reflects the policy of this government, that means that they intend to wage a political war. The Israeli government should apologize for what the foreign minister said.”
Lieberman is known as one of the more extreme figures in the Israeli government, in part “because of his support for redrawing Israel’s borders to push areas with heavy concentrations of Israeli Arabs out of Israel and into Palestinian jurisdiction,” as the Washington Post reported. “He also launched a failed effort in parliament to force Israeli Arabs to take a loyalty oath or lose their citizenship.”
The US is still engaged in a diplomatic push at the UN to pressure the Security Council to vote down the resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood. Meanwhile, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are pushing for other sorts of diplomatic leverage at the UN, prompting Israel and the US to issue threats to defund the UN.