Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman, until recently the Foreign Minister, reacted with joy Friday as Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas threatened to quit if negotiations do not resume. Abbas has refused to negotiate in absence of several Israeli concessions, including a complete freeze on construction east of the 1949 armistice line.
According to Lieberman, Israel "can't wait" for Abbas to follow through on his threat.
"We congratulate Abu Mazen [Abbas] for reaching the correct conclusion, that only his leave from the PA leadership will allow the diplomatic process to resume," Lieberman said.
"We anxiously await the official announcement from the Muqata regarding his retirement," he added. "There are many alternatives among the Palestinians with whom we could hold a diplomatic dialog."
"It's Abbas' remaining [as leader] that will ultimately bring Hamas and other radicals to power in Judea and Samaria," he warned.
Abbas told Haaretz that if negotiations do not resume after the elections, "I will take the phone and call (Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu. I'll tell him...Sit in the chair here instead of me, take the keys, and you will be responsible for the Palestinian Authority."
Abbas has demanded a construction freeze that would include a ban on natural growth in major Israeli towns that it has previously been assumed would remain Israeli under a diplomatic agreement. He also has required that Israel free PA resident terrorists, allow the PA to arm its police force more heavily, and agree in principle to his major territorial demands. At the same time, he has refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state or to end incitement to terrorism, and continues to support the "right of return" for millions of people descended from Arabs who fled pre-state Israel to move to Israel.
Abbas' term in office expired in early 2009, but he has declined to hold new elections, arguing that PA residents should vote for a new leader only after Hamas-led Gaza reunites with the Fatah-led PA in Judea and Samaria.