Four days after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas strongly condemned the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu acknowledged Sunday that the Palestinian leader’s words were “good.”
“I think it was good that he said that, and I think it would be tested now by his willingness to stop the incitement against Israel and the glorification of terrorists,” Netanyahu said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Abbas has been harshly criticized by Hamas and inside the Palestinian Authority for condemning – in Arabic during a speech he delivered at a conference in Saudi Arabia – the kidnappings, calling for the boys to be safely returned, and supporting security cooperation with Israel.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid have indicated in recent days they believe Netanyahu, who said he holds the PA responsible for the kidnappings, could have been more charitable to Abbas after those comments.
Instead, the PMO released a statement last Wednesday saying that Abbas would be judged by his deeds in acting to free the teens and break his unity pact with Hamas, and not by his words.
On Sunday Netanyahu said if Abbas helped Israel capture the kidnappers and break his pact with Hamas, “that would be a good development” in the right direction.
“I think you can’t have it both ways: You can’t talk about peace with Israel and be in a unity government with Hamas that kidnaps Israeli teenagers and calls for Israel’s destruction.” he said. “You can have one or the other but not both. I hope President Abbas chooses the right thing.”
Addressing the cabinet earlier in the day about the IDF operation to find Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah, Netanyahu – relating to two Palestinian deaths on Sunday – said the IDF has no intention of deliberately harming any innocent Palestinians, but in the process of self-defense there will occasionally be innocent victims “as a result of the self-defense actions of our soldiers.”
The prime minister said the efforts to find the three kidnapped teenagers means there will inevitably be “friction” with the Palestinian civilian population.
Netanyahu said the IDF's focus was to bring the three youths home safely, find the kidnappers and strike “at the organization to which they belong.”
The prime minister reiterated that Israel has unequivocal proof that Hamas was behind the abductions.
“We are sharing this proof and information to this effect with several countries, and soon this information will be made public,” he said.
Netanyahu said once the public has this information, Abbas’s condemnation in Saudi Arabia will be “put to [the] test in practice. His remarks will be tested not only by actions to return the boys home but by his willingness to dissolve the unity government with Hamas, which abducted the youths and calls for the destruction of Israel.”
Meanwhile Netanyahu commented for the first time publicly on Sunday about the recent decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from three companies doing business with the security forces in the West Bank, calling the move “disgraceful” and saying it should “trouble all people of conscience and morality.”
Netanyahu, in his Meet the Press interview, said that the Middle East was currently in the throes of savagery of unimaginable proportions. “Then you come to Israel and you see the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians – Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East.”
Netanyahu said most Americans understand that Israel is a “beacon of civilization and moderation.”
He suggested that the church fly to the Middle East and see Israel “for the embattled democracy that it is,” and then take a bus tour.
“Go to Libya, go to Syria, go to Iraq and see the difference,” he said, adding that he would give them two pieces of advice: “One is make sure it’s an armor-plated bus; and second, don’t say that you’re Christians.”