Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who for eight months led Israel’s negotiation team with the Palestinians, lauded Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s condemnation Wednesday of the kidnappings of the three Israeli teens.
Abbas’s words were “important, correct, and reflect the true reality – Hamas is an extreme Islamic terrorist organization that attacks civilians and children, and does not wage a war for the Palestinian people and their national aspirations, but rather against the existence of the state of Israel. It is forbidden to give them legitimacy.”
Livni said these are words she continuously tells the world. “These are words the world needs to internalize, especially after they were voiced clearly by Abu Mazen [Abbas].”
“Israel, the world, and the moderates and pragmatists on the Palestinian and Arab side need to fight together against the terrorist Hamas, push it into a corner, isolate it, and in that way bring back the chance of returning to negotiations and the idea of two nation states,” she continued.
Livni’s comments were the first reactions from a government minister to Abbas's speech in Saudi Arabia where he lashed out at the kidnappers of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah, and said those who carried out the abduction wanted to destroy the PA.
"These three boys are human beings like us, and they should be returned to their families," Abbas told foreign ministers at an Organization of the Islamic Conference gathering in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Abbas’s remarks drew strong condemnations from Hamas and other Palestinian groups, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP] and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine [DFLP].
Abbas pointed out that they had been kidnapped in Area C of the West Bank, where the PA has no authority.
He said that the PA security forces were assisting Israel in the search for the youths. “We are coordinating with them [Israel] to reach them,” Abbas said. “They are human beings and we care about the lives of human beings. The Americans informed us that one of them is an American citizen. We told them that we care about the lives of all human beings.”
Abbas said that those behind the kidnapping “want to destroy us,” adding they would be held accountable for their deed regardless of their identity.
He accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of using the kidnapping to crack down on Palestinians in the West Bank.
Abbas also defended continued security coordination between the PA and Israel, saying it was a Palestinian interest to protect Palestinians and prevent a return to chaos, as was the case during the second intifada.
“We don’t want to return to a situation that destroys us and we won’t allow this to happen,” Abbas stressed. He claimed that Israel and Hamas had also conducted security coordination during the rule of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
Abbas said that the US and EU decided to support the Hamas-Fatah government after they heard that it would continue to conduct security coordination with Israel.
Abbas also held the Israeli government responsible for the failure of the last round of US-sponsored peace talks. He said that the Israeli government halted the negotiations even though the Palestinians were ready to talk for another nine months.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri condemned Abbas’s remarks as “harmful to Palestinian interests and reconciliation.”
“Abbas’s remarks are in violation of the reconciliation agreement [with Fatah] and Palestinian national consensus,” Abu Zuhri said. “They are also harmful to the thousands of Palestinian prisoners who are facing a slow death in occupation prisons.”
Yahya al-Abadseh, a Hamas legislator in the Gaza Strip, accused Abbas of “crossing all red lines.”
He also accused Abbas of turning his back on the “legacy” of the PLO and the Palestinian national liberation movement.
“Abbas has placed himself in confrontation with the entire Palestinian people,” al-Abadseh said.
PFLP official Kayed al-Ghoul told the Ramallah-based Wattan TV that Abbas’s “problem is that he wants to appease all parties at the expense of the feelings and interests of the Palestinians.”
Al-Ghoul also lashed out at security coordination with Israel, saying it only provides security for Israelis and was “never in the interest of the Palestinians.”
DFLP leader Talal Abu Zarifeh said that Abbas’s remarks were “unacceptable” and “harmful” to the Palestinian cause.