It was not the first time that a Palestinian leader called publicly for a state without Jews, but the timing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s “Judenrein” declaration — immediately ahead of the revived peace talks in Washington — sent a shudder through an already shaky peace conference.
The remark was made in the context of security guarantees. “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands,” Abbas said in a briefing to mostly Egyptian journalists. “An international, multinational presence like in Sinai, Lebanon and Syria, we are with that,” he said.
Israel seeks a military presence in Yehudah and Shomron and at the border with Jordan to prevent any smuggling of weapons that could be used against it.
There was no official Israeli reaction, but on Tuesday at a Knesset conference on anti-Semitism, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avigdor Lieberman (Likud-Beiteinu) took the opportunity to recall Abbas’s Holocaust denial record, saying he keeps a copy of Abbas’s book — which purports to connect Zionism and Nazism and has a Star of David and a swastika on its cover — in his office.
“I don’t know why, now that we’re all so excited about the peace process, no one remembered to mention it. Abbas never took his words back or apologized,” Lieberman noted.
Other participants, including Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, similarly condemned the Abbas remark.
It was not the only comment boding ill for the peace process. On the future of Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron and the status of Yerushalayim, Abbas indicated that the give-and-take of negotiations would be mostly take and very little give.
“We’ve already made all the necessary concessions,” he said, and rejected the notion he would agree to let Israel freeze construction in more remote parts of Yehudah and Shomron while continuing to build in the larger and more populous “blocks” closer to the 1967 lines.
“There was a request, ‘We’ll only build here, what do you think?’ If I agreed, I would legitimize all the rest … I said no. I said out loud and in writing that, to us, [they’re] in their entirety illegitimate. East Yerushalayim is the capital of the state of Palestine … if there were and must be some kind of small exchange [of land] equal in size and value, we are ready to discuss this — no more, no less,” he said.
Asked if the Americans may try to get Israel to agree to a de facto freeze, the president smiled and declined to answer, Ynet reported.
His comments were made despite Kerry’s wish that both sides refrain from talking publicly about issues.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon alluded on Monday to unpublicized considerations that led to Israel’s decision to release Palestinian terrorists.
Speaking at the IDF’s absorption base for new draftees at Tel Hashomer, Yaalon said, “Releasing prisoners came as a result of choosing a bad option over a worse option … We reached the decision to avoid the worse [option]. Many strategic considerations, which may be revealed in the future, stood behind this, and hence we must go forward with a release of pre-Oslo prisoners.”
Some analysts have suggested that Israel agreed to the release in order to secure American support in a potential military confrontation with Iran, The Jerusalem Post reported.