Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "an evil hater of Israel" in his weekly sermon on Saturday.

After mentioning the traditional New Year's wish of "may those who hate us be finished," Yosef reportedly said that God should send a plague to Abbas and the Palestinians, and they should be finished.

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Four days before the opening of new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Yosef also wished death on the Palestinian nation and prayed that "the Lord strike them down."

Shas veteran Yehuda Avidan responded by saying that anyone who knows Yosef knows that there is no one who wants and seeks peace more than him. Avidan explained that the rabbi sees the Palestinians as Israel's enemies but wants there to be peace.

Until now Yosef has steered clear of commenting on anything related to diplomatic negotiations. At the end of the 1980s Yosef ruled that the country should seek peace, even at the price of painful concessions, given the supremacy of the Jewish value of 'pikuakh nefesh' (saving of life).

Last year, Yosef attacked the secular education system, saying that some secular people were "fools" who behave like "animals." Giving a sermon on kiddush customs (the blessing over wine), Yosef said that while Torah students and synagogue goers knew how to make kiddush, "there are some who studied in secular schools like foolish fools - they don't know what a kiddush is and then eat like animals." He has since said that people who send their children to learn in secular schools will suffer punishment in this world and the next.

In 2009 Yosef also caused an uproar after arguing that those murdered in the Holocaust were a reincarnation of sinners from past generations.

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