Lieberman, Abbas Trade Barbs

FM Lieberman and PA Chairman Abbas trade barbs: Abbas says Bibi should have picked Livni, Lieberman terms Abbas “not really legitimate.”

Maayana Miskin , | updated: 05:07

FM Avigdor Lieberman
FM Avigdor Lieberman
Israel news photo: (file)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas traded barbs on Monday. Insults began when Abbas said Sunday that had he been in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's place, he would have chosen Kadima head Tzipi Livni as his foreign minister, and not Yisrael Beteinu (Israel Our Home) head Lieberman.

Livni served as foreign minister under previous Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and met with Abbas frequently in 2008 as Olmert pushed PA negotiations.

Lieberman fired back on Monday, calling Abbas “not really legitimate.” With Hamas in charge of Gaza, “Who exactly does Abbas represent? At best, half of a nation,” Lieberman said.

He accused the PA chairman of becoming more critical and demanding as his popularity drops, saying, “His demand to freeze construction in settlements just shows his distress and incompetence.” Abbas' preference for Livni is “a blessing,” Lieberman said.

Abbas has refused to meet with Netanyahu, saying Netanyahu must first stop building homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria. The PA has refused to negotiate without a construction freeze, and demands that Jews living in Judea and Samaria ultimately be forced to leave, despite a recent promise from PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad that Jews would be allowed to live in a PA-led Arab state in the region.

Abbas has also demanded a contiguous stretch of land connecting Gaza with Judea and Samaria, a concession that would split Israel in half. He has refused to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland or the give up the demand for the “right of return,” which would grant millions of foreign Arabs Israeli citizenship.

Following Lieberman's criticism, Abbas' office issued a statement accusing Israel of “evad[ing] recognition of an independent Palestinian state” and attempting to “manufacture a crisis” in order to divert attention from pressure to freeze Jewish growth in Judea and Samaria.