Right-wing Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the “number one enemy” of Israel on Thursday, Israeli media reported.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Steinitz reacted to a speech made by Abbas a day earlier during the Fatah party’s seventh congress, during which the Palestinian head of state reiterated that he did not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and that Palestinian recognition of Israel “would not last forever” so long as Israel did not recognize a Palestinian state.
“Abbas is talking about stopping his recognition of Israel, but first he should start recognizing Israel. Abbas has never recognized Israel’s right to exist. To this very day he rejects Israel’s right to exist,” the Times of Israel quoted Steinitz as saying.
“Let's not kid ourselves. From an ideological perspective, Abbas is the number one enemy of the very existence of Israel, even more so than Arafat,” he added, referring to deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Steinitz, a member of the right-wing Likud party and a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, echoed in his statement the Israeli government’s stance that Palestinian recognition of Israel’s Jewish character is a prerequisite to any peace negotiations.
Palestinian officials have however balked at recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, fearing that it would lead to further discrimination against the more than 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel.
However, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and numerous Palestinian officials, including Abbas, have recognized Israel’s right to exist since 1993 and pushed for a two-state solution with an Israeli and a Palestinian state existing side by side.
Meanwhile, Israel has not recognized the right to exist of a Palestinian state in any form.
A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
Steinitz’s stinging criticism of Abbas comes amid growing discontent in Palestinian society over Abbas and the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) perceived inaction against daily Israeli violations of international law in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The PA has also regularly come under fire by Palestinian political factions for its security coordination with Israeli authorities, which has allegedly included passing along intelligence regarding attacks against Israeli targets, and adopting a “revolving door policy” funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.
In April, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pledged in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 to arrest Palestinians planning attacks targeting Israel, stating in an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel that same month that “our security cooperation with Israel is functioning well.”
The Israeli army’s central command said that the Palestinian security forces were responsible for approximately 40 percent of all arrests of “suspected terrorists,” Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in May.
Numerous Palestinian groups have repeatedly accused the PA of aligning with Israel's goals in the occupied West Bank, and of preventing a sustained uprising against Israel.
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