Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is interfering with Israel elections, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said in an interview with Army Radio on Sunday morning, the latest in a series of attacks he has launched against Abbas in recent months.
Liberman's comments came in response to an interview Abbas gave to Israel's Channel 2, that was aired over the weekend.
On Saturday, Abbas advisor Nabil Abu Rudaineh effectively preemptively confirmed Liberman's accusations, saying the interview on Israeli television was aimed at “affecting Israeli public opinion.”
Abbas told Channel 2 on Thursday that he did not want to return to his birthplace of Safed and that a Palestinian state would be established only within the pre-1967 lines. Abbas also said that as long as he is in power there will not be another intifada.
"Abbas is interfering, to the benefit of the Left, [Labor leader] Shelly Yacimovich and [Zehava Gal-On], who represent Palestinian interests in Israel," Liberman asserted.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, however, said Abbas was not simply grandstanding. "In private conversations, too, [Abbas] expresses willingness to concede the right of return," Barak told Army Radio Sunday.
Abbas advisers, on the other hand, were quick to assert that the PA president said nothing that negates the right of return following the Channel 2 interview.
"The position of the Palestinian leadership remains fixed,” said Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas. “The refugees and the right of return are among the final-status issues that will be negotiated with the Israelis. We are committed to the Palestinian principles as endorsed by the Palestine National Council [the PLO’s parliament-in-exile].”
Barak defended Abbas, saying the Palestinian president "is not joining 'Likud Beytenu' and not Zionist youth movements, because he is the Palestinian leader, but you can't say we have no partner with [Abbas]."Hamas, Fatah remain at odds on negotiations
Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter noted that divisions between the
Palestinian factions undermine Abbas's position.
Although Abbas represents "the only
partner we can talk to" as the leader of the PA, Dichter told Israel Radio on Sunday, he has limited sway with the Hamas leadership
that took over Gaza in a 2007 coup, and has not visited Gaza in five
years and is at odds .
"We must be very careful
about negotiating with Abu Mazen about Judea and Samaria, and making
Gaza a separate issue" that Israel will have to deal with later, Dichter
said. "Israel cannot turn its policy in the region into 'three states
for two nations.'"
"I think that you have to look at Abu Mazen's
[Abbas's] interviews in both English and Arabic," he continued, noting
that Abbas told an Egyptian media outlet that the Palestinian right of
return to Israel was sacred, despite foregoing that claim in the English
Channel 2 interview.
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar told Army Radio Sunday morning Abbas is afraid he would be killed if he insists on a third Intifada. Abbas said in the Channel 2 interview that there would not be another violent intifada as long as he is in office.
Reacting to the interview, Zahar said, Abbas was scared of being murdered "like they poisoned [former PLO chairman Yasser] Arafat to death."
"With these words, Abu Mazen [Abbas] is actually protecting his life - but at the same time, he is taking a gamble on his good reputation," Zahar added.
Zahar said that the radio was not the place to offer peace proposals and maintained that Abbas had no right to say what he did. "All Palestinians, everywhere, are against him," he contended. Electoral interference?
Though Liberman doled out accusations of electoral interference, he has also been on the receiving end of such accusations
part of a campaign against the PA president, Liberman in September
called Abbas a “liar, coward and wimp” who would quit if he had any
modicum of self-respect.
Liberman at the time said Abbas and his
government were living “on borrowed time” and that it would be
impossible to save them just as it was impossible to save other “rotten
regimes” in the Arab world.