Mahmoud Abbas - Reuters - 5.8.2012
Mahmoud Abbas speaking to the media during a press event in the West Bank city of Ramallah August 5, 2012. Photo by Reuters
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For the first time, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responded on Sunday to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s letter to the Quartet’s foreign ministers calling for general elections to replace him. The Quartet, made up of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, is involved in mediating the Middle East peace process.

“Lieberman has been trying to get rid of me for two years now, and now he is doing it as a part of a daily campaign,” Abbas said in a meeting with a Meretz party delegation in Ramallah on Sunday, according to people that attended the meeting. “It is the government of which he is a member that doesn't want peace and is doing everything it can to destroy any chance for peace.”

Abbas discussed Lieberman’s allegations that he was employing “diplomatic terrorism” against Israel by promoting unilateral action by the UN to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state. The Palestinian campaign for official UN status is not meant to replace negotiations with Israel, but rather to supplement them to ensure that the two-nation solution stays alive, Abbas said.

“Lieberman and the government of which he is a member know very well that there is 100 percent security cooperation between us and the Israeli security forces,” he said. “We are not doing this only to keep Israelis safe but also for the safety of Palestinians. We want to live in peace alongside Israel. We will not return to terrorism and violence but it is our right to approach the UN to further our interests."

Meretz chairman MK Zahava Gal-On told Abbas she thought that Lieberman’s use of the phrase “diplomatic terrorism” was “embarrassing.” She noted that the Israeli foreign minister “acted cynically for reasons of internal politics.”

Abbas stressed that even now, when the peace process is stalled, the PA continues to combat terrorism.

At this point chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat chimed in: “Even if Mother Teresa were heading the Palestinian Authority, Lieberman would charge that she was committing ‘diplomatic terrorism.’”

The meeting in Ramallah was also attended by Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz and former party MKs Haim Oron, Mossi Raz and Avshalom Vilan, as well as former Israeli ambassador to South Africa Ilan Baruch.

Abbas vehemently criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “From the day he took office, I knew it was impossible to negotiate with him,” he said. “Netanyahu told me he wouldn’t stop building in the settlements.”

The Palestinian president stressed that he reads the Israeli public opinion polls that show that most Israelis support the peace process and the establishment of a Palestinian state. “I saw one poll that showed that 70 percent of Israelis support the two-state solution,” Abbas said. “But with regards to your government, it’s a different story. Once it was social problems, then it was the Iranian nuclear issue – and we’re relegated to the bottom of your priority list.”