Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s statements on Saturday night that he opposed any Israeli civilian or military presence in a future Palestinian state was met with scorn by cabinet ministers on Sunday.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told reporters, before the cabinet meeting, that Abbas’s comment about a state without Jews was “racist.”

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“I remind everyone that Abbas denied the Holocaust in his doctoral thesis, and these things need to raise questions about this man,” Steinitz said.

National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau said, “I want to remind everyone that we have Arab citizens in Israel, and that is completely acceptable. I don’t see any problem that there will be Jewish citizens in a Palestinian state, if it is established.”

After Abbas’s clarification that he was talking about a refusal to allow Israeli soldiers in a future Palestinian state, one government source pointed out that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during his trip last week to Washington that the Palestinian desire for sovereignty and independence did not have to be in contradiction to Israel’s desire for security.

“Any peace treaty will have to take into account Israel’s legitimate self-defense requirements,” the source said. “They can’t be ignored. If Abbas said he will ignore them, then that is not a good sign, or a way to move forward.”

The official said there was no substitute for a long-term Israeli military presence along the Jordan River, and stressed that other countries – including Germany, Japan and South Korea – have had foreign soldiers on their territory, without viewing that as an infringement of their sovereignty.

Abbas, who was speaking to Arab League foreign ministers during an emergency meeting in Doha, Qatar, also reiterated his determination to go ahead with plans to ask the United Nations in September to recognize a Palestinian state along the June 4, 1967, lines.

The meeting was held at the request of the PA leadership, which is seeking Arab support for the UN bid.

Abbas’s remarks against the presence of Israelis in a future Palestinian state came in response to Netanyahu’s statements in Washington last week.

The prime minister declared that Israel would retain control over the Jordan Valley in any peace with the Palestinians. He also said that some settlements would stay in the West Bank.

Abbas criticized Netanyahu for “putting solutions to finalstatus issues before negotiating [with the Palestinians].”

He said that Netanyahu has decided that Jerusalem would be the eternal capital of Israel, that there would be no “right of return” to Israel proper, that the Palestinian state be demilitarized, that the IDF would stay in the Jordan Valley, and that settlement blocs would remain with Israel.

“Now he has added a new demand,” Abbas said. “He is demanding recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. We have rejected, and will reject, this demand. We know what his intention is. He wants to undermine the Palestinian-Arab presence inside Israel and prevent the return of refugees.”

Abbas said a resumption of the peace talks was conditioned on the cessation of settlement construction and setting a clear timetable for the negotiations.

“The peace talks can’t go on forever,” he said.

He told the Arab ministers in Doha that Netanyahu’s conditions meant there were no “common and clear grounds” for resuming the negotiations.

“Our strategic choice is to go to the UN and the General Assembly and Security Council to achieve international recognition of a state, and this is not a secret,” Abbas said. “We have said this more than once, and we have told the Americans, Europeans and Israelis that we have no choice but to go to the UN. We are serious about going to the UN, and we are not maneuvering and we are not making tactical moves.”

In the context of his efforts to secure Arab backing for the UN bid, Abbas arrived in Cairo on Sunday for talks with Gen.

Mohammed Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and de facto head of state.

Abbas’s talks in Cairo will also focus on the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation accord between Fatah and Hamas.

In a related development, Nabil Sha’ath, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, met in Gaza City on Sunday with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and discussed with him the implementation of the reconciliation agreement – especially with regards to the establishment of a unity government consisting of independent “technocrats.”

Sha’ath said after the meeting that the new government would be established as early as next week.

He said that Netanyahu’s speech before Congress last week was proof that Israel did not want peace.

“How can peace be achieved when Israel wants to devour half of the West Bank and all of Jerusalem, does not want the right of return, is continuing to build in the settlements and is asking us to recognize it as a Jewish state, which means expelling 1.5 million Palestinians?” Sha’ath asked.

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