Less than three weeks after publicly wishing that God smite the Palestinian people and their leaders with the plague, the head of Shas’s Council of Torah Sages, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, wished the Palestinians and their leaders, “who are partners to this important [peace] process and want its success long days and years.”

Yosef changed his tone in a letter to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak that was initiated by President Shimon Peres. The president sought to correct the perception among the Palestinians that the rabbi was an obstacle to peace.

"My clear stance for the past decades regarding the importance of attaining peace while maintaining Israel's security is well known,” Yosef wrote Mubarak. “The People of Israel are taught to seek peace, and three times daily pray for it. We wish for a sustainable peace with all our neighbors, and thank his honor, the President for his direct involvement in our region's peace process, which doubtlessly contributes to, and fortifies, this important process."

Yosef then “blessed all the leaders and peoples, Egyptians Jordanians and Palestinians, who are partners to this important process and want its success, a process that will bring peace to our region and prevent bloodshed."

The head of Shas’s Council of Torah Sages and senior Sephardi adjudicator had, in his weekly Saturday night sermon, referred to Abbas and the Palestinian people as “our enemies and haters... May they vanish from the world, may God smite them with the plague, them and the Palestinians, evil-doers and Israelhaters.”

Yosef, who has met with Mubarak in the past, expressed his concern over the Egyptian leader's health in a letter in July, following reports of a severe illness. Mubarak had in return issued a warm and thankful reply to the senior rabbi.

In the new letter, Yosef expressed his joy at hearing that Mubarak's health was improving, and wished him long years, as is the wont of the two men who over the years maintained a cordial relationship.

"May you have long days and years, and succeed in your endeavors for peace, and that peace may reign in our region," Yosef wrote.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report

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