Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Sunday played down the statements by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas during an interview on Israeli television. Abbas claimed he is willing to sit down for negotiations with Israel and establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
"Since the beginning of the term of the present government, we have called on Abbas to come to the table, but he keeps imposing preconditions so as not to come to the table," said Ya’alon.
“Anyone who does not understand that we are facing someone who is willing to talk to us about receiving land but not willing to recognize our right to exist as the national homeland of the Jewish people or to even recognize the pre-1967 borders as an end to the conflict and an end to the demands, simply does not understand what the issue here is,” he added.
“Abbas might prefer Ramallah and Qatar over Tzfat," Ya'alon said, referring to Abbas’s claim in the interview that he had no intention of trying to regain his childhood home in the northern town of Tzfat (Safed) in Galilee, which was liberated by Israel in 1948.
"But that does not mean he does not want the Palestinian people to ultimately reach Tzfat, so I believe his words in Arabic rather than those in English,” added Ya’alon, echoing similar remarks by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Ya'alon said that anyone who thinks that a peace agreement is achieved by signing a paper or documents formulated by lawyers, while at the same time the younger generation of PA Arabs is educated to wear explosive belts and admire suicide bombers, “simply does not understand what he is talking about.”
He accused Abbas of "systematic incitement to hatred and de-humanizing the State of Israel” and of “not preparing the hearts [of PA Arabs] for reconciliation with Israel and coexistence with it.”
After his remarks sparked huge protests in Gaza, Abbas retracted his statements. His own spokesman said that the Palestinian Authority certainly has not given up the demand that Israel allow the immigration of several million foreign Arabs who claim Israel is their home.
Abbas then made it clear to the Arab world, through an Egyptian television network, that although he personally would give up living in Tzfat, “the right of return is holy and no one can deny it.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted in a statement on Saturday that “Abbas has refused for the last four years to renew negotiations with Israel, despite a series of steps taken by Prime Minister Netanyahu, such as an unprecedented freeze on settlement construction.”