Jerusalem: Israel`s foreign minister charged
on Monday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is an
"obstacle" to peace and that he hopes Abbas will soon resign.
The comments by Avigdor Lieberman drew an angry response
from Palestinians, who accused him of calling for an
assassination and appealed to the United States and the
European Union to intervene.
In a briefing with reporters, Lieberman lashed out at the
Palestinian leader, saying Abbas has been leading a campaign
to delegitimize Israel internationally and that he has become
an "obstacle that needs to be removed."
Abbas is leading a drive for U.N. recognition of a
Palestinian state. Israel and the United States fiercely
oppose the bid, saying independence can be reached only
Peace talks have been largely frozen for more than two
years. They broke down the last time over the issue of
construction in Israeli settlements.
In the past, Abbas has repeatedly threatened to resign if
there is no progress in peace efforts. Lieberman called on him
to carry out his threat.
"He has been threatening to return the keys and resign?
That would not be a threat but a blessing, and I wish he would
finally do it," Lieberman said.
"Whoever comes after him will be better ... there is no
lack of Palestinians who studied in the West educated people
with Western values with whom we can talk."
Lieberman added that Abbas was concerned only about his
personal survival after the overthrow of his "friends" in
Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
"That is very understandable, but it doesn`t help in reaching
an agreement," he said.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top aide to Abbas, fired back,
calling Lieberman the "most extreme, racist person in Israel."
"Lieberman is an enemy for peace and he should be
condemned by every rational voice in Israel," he said.
"If this position represents or reflects the policy of
this government that means that they intend to wage a
political war. The Israeli government should apologize for
what the foreign minister said."
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat added that Lieberman`s
comments amounted to incitement and could be interpreted as a
call to assassinate Abbas. He said he relayed that message to
Americans and Europeans as well.
It wasn`t clear whether Lieberman was expressing his own
opinion or government policy. He`s spoken out of step with
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before, most notably when he
told the United Nations that there was no point in negotiating
with Palestinians just as peace talks were being relaunched in