PM disavows Liberman's call for new PA elections

After Palestinian negotiator says PM must distance himself from Liberman's letter to Quartet labeling Abbas an obstacle to peace.

Netanyahu R370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu R370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu distanced himself on Wednesday from a letter Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman wrote to the Quartet members calling for elections to be held in the Palestinian Authority and the selection of a “new, legitimate, hopefully realistic Palestinian leadership.”
A source in the Prime Minister’s Office said the letter “does not reflect the position of Prime Minister Netanyahu or the government as a whole.”
Liberman dispatched the five-page letter, which is extremely critical of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, on Sunday. In recent weeks he has said repeatedly that no diplomatic progress was possible with Abbas at the PA helm. Netanyahu has not seconded that position.
The source in the Prime Minister’s Office said that while there is acknowledgement in Netanyahu’s office that Abbas “has created difficulties that have prevented the resumption of negotiations, we nevertheless remain committed to restarting the dialogue with the Palestinians.”
“It is not Israel’s policy to interfere in the electoral process in other places,” the source said.
Liberman, in the letter, called the PA under Abbas a “despotic government riddled with corruption.”
“Due to Abbas’s weak standing, and his policy of not renewing the negotiations which is an obstacle to peace, the time has come to consider a creative solution, to think ‘outside the box,’ in order to strengthen the Palestinian leadership,” Liberman wrote.
One Foreign Ministry source said the minister’s letter was not disassociated from a letter the PA sent the EU last month urging it not to upgrade its relationship with Israel in any way, “whether it be official or practical.”
Liberman, in a meeting earlier this month with visiting Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, termed that letter “scandalous” for accusing Israel of theft and exploitation of natural resources, closing off the Gaza Strip, destroying projects in Area C of the West Bank and settler violence.
The letter also accused Israel of changing the demographic situation in Jerusalem, use of prolonged administrative detention, and the practice of “extrajudicial killings and torture.”
Liberman’s letter, sent to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, said that Israel had taken a number of steps in an attempt to build a positive atmosphere, but that these have been met with “refusal and consistent attempts” by the PA to turn to “pointless activity, counterproductive to any constructive efforts.”
Among the steps Liberman mentioned were those that appeared in an internal government memo first reported by The Jerusalem Post earlier this month.
They included the signing of an economic accord with the PA aimed at enhancing trade and clamping down on tax evasion; the decision on the eve of Ramadan to advance the PA approximately NIS 180 million of tax money it transfers on a monthly basis so salaries could be paid; the transfer in May to the PA of the bodies of some 90 terrorists; and a government decision to increase by 5,000 the number of Palestinian construction workers allowed to work in the country.
In his letter, Liberman wrote that “despite these steps, we do not see any willingness or positive attitude on the part of the PA. The opposite is the case.”
He said that while Abbas “speaks with a moderate and pleasant voice to the international community,” he has been “personally acting to undermine attempts to renew the peace process.”
The PA swiftly slammed Liberman, with Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh issuing a statement saying these remarks were “incitement for violence and killing.”
Rudeineh added that Liberman’s statements constituted “blatant interference in internal Palestinian affairs,” adding that the Palestinian people are the source of legitimacy for Abbas.
Rudeineh called upon the Quartet to take a firm position in dealing with Liberman and asked the government to take a clear position on the remarks that he said “contribute to the creation of a state of violence and instability.”
Such remarks, he added, “do not contribute in any way to creating a suitable atmosphere for peace.”
Saeb Erekat, the head of the Palestinian delegation to the finalstatus negotiations, called upon the international community to condemn Liberman’s “frequent invitations to get rid of President Abbas.