Katz: Abbas has less control over Palestinians than Assad has over Syria

Coalition members question PA president's ability to make concessions needed to completing a long-term peace agreement.

Kerry and Abbas 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Kerry and Abbas 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz on Sunday questioned the ability of Mahmoud Abbas to lead negotiations toward a peace agreement with Israel, saying that the PA president has less control over Palestinians than Bashar Assad has control over Syria at the moment.
"Just as nobody would seriously consider giving Assad land in his current situation, it is impossible to seriously think about transferring the control of territories to the Palestinians," Katz said prior to entering the weekly cabinet meeting.
Katz added that the Israeli public was skeptical about the negotiations "because it sees the position of Abu Mazen [Abbas] and what is happening in the region."
"There are 1.5 million Palestinians under Hamas control that oppose this peace process," Katz stated.
He said that despite the fact that he did not think the peace talks had a good chance of yielding a realistic agreement, he still supported entering negotiations to improve Israel's strategic position.
Katz echoed comments made by International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz on Saturday, who also called into questions Abbas's ability to sign a lasting peace deal.
Steinitz said that Abbas had reluctantly agreed to resume negotiations. He posited that Abbas's behavior and his political position among Palestinians raise doubts about his ability to make the concessions necessary to completing a long-term peace agreement.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman also pointed out Saturday that Abbas does not represent Gaza and said “it is unclear if his government in Judea and Samaria is legally legitimate, since elections that were meant to take place over three years ago in the PA were postponed again and again.”
“It’s clear that Abbas cannot sign an agreement that the conflict will end or give up on the right of return,” Liberman explained.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.