Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is the world’s most anti-Semitic leader, and peace with him is not possible until he stops his incitement against Israel and the Jewish people, Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said on Wednesday.
“There is no doubt that Abu Mazen [Abbas] is now worthy of the title of the number one anti-Semitic leader in the world,” Steinitz said as he addressed the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv at the end of its two-day annual conference.
“One has to call a spade a spade. The level of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement has reached new heights,” he said.
The incitement is present in Palestinian schoolbooks, on state-sponsored television and on websites, including Abbas’s official site, he added.
“Not just against Israel, but against Jews, there is no other leader in the world who is inciting to such a degree – as it once occurred in the most dismal of times in Europe – like Abu Mazen is today,” he said in an apparent allusion to Nazi Germany during World War II.
Steinitz noted that the same Palestinian leader who as a young man denied the Holocaust took place was now denying the rights of the Jewish people to a state.
“So don’t sell us illusions of peace sprouting and burgeoning in a Middle East that will calm down when we sign an agreement,” he said. “If that agreement is signed – and I do not know if it will be signed – it will be a political agreement, but to talk about peace or a peace agreement under these conditions, unless we see a change in the root, is an illusion. We won’t receive peace from a PA led by Abu Mazen.”
The strategic affairs minister, who in the last few months has publicized this issue in Israel and abroad, called on Abbas and the PA to immediately halt incitement against Israel and the Jewish people, and to erase anti-Semitism from its books, television programs and Internet sites. Otherwise, he said, it would give the impression that the issue had been dealt with when in fact it was ongoing.
He added that he was speaking as one who two decades ago was a member of Peace Now. He moved away from the group after the 1993 Oslo Accords when he saw that incitement continued.
Israel has accepted the Palestinian right to a state, and now the Palestinians have to accept the right of the Jewish people to a state as a minimal demand for peace, he said.
Steinitz cautioned that no more than an interim accord was most likely to come out of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to reach a final-status agreement.
Addressing the issue of the Jordan Valley, he said that “no agreement, no political agreement, no peace agreement, will ensure Israel’s security. Therefore we need to be extremely cautious vis-a-vis security issues.”
Israel wants to maintain a security presence in the area while the US has sought an alternative that would ensure Israeli safety while acquiescing to Palestinian demands for a full IDF withdrawal.
Steinitz said that such an arrangement was not possible, pointing to Israel’s experience with the Gaza withdrawal in 2005. Since then, he said, more than 11,000 rockets had been fired at Israel.
“We have to make sure that we have defensible borders – total control – in the Jordan Valley, and not only in certain points,” the minister said, adding that it was important to maintain the settlements in the valley.
He also noted that the Middle East was unstable, Arab countries were collapsing from within, and no one could promise that a Palestinian state would be immune from takeover by radicals.
“We have to keep our eyes wide open,” said Steinitz, adding that Israel must both prevent the creation of a binational state and preserve its ethnic, nationalist identity as a Jewish state while at the same time ensuring its security.
“We are between the devil and the deep blue sea,” he said.
Although his opinions differed from those of the United States, Steinitz said, he recognized that the US was a “long-standing friend” and ally of Israel. This alliance is “one of the pillars of our national security” and this relationship must be maintained.
He also chastised Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for not immediately apologizing to Kerry for his closed-room remark in which he called the secretary of state “obsessive” and “messianic.”