NEW YORK - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are furious over the speech of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, in which he claimed that Israel is "planning a new Nakba for the Palestinians." Netanyahu and Lieberman believe that his remarks are incitement against Israel.
Mahmoud Abbas, who spoke at the UNGA for thirty minutes, said Israel is planning to ethnically cleanse Palestinians, that Israel wants to destroy the two-state solution, and that it is trying to destroy the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli representative who was sitting in the room during the speech was Haim Waxman, Israel's Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations – not the most senior of Israeli officials present in New York for the general assembly. At that time, Netanyahu was sitting in a side-room with Foreign Minister Lieberman, watching the speech online on a laptop. Abbas' speech angered the prime minister, and he decided to add a response to the speech in his own address to the UNGA.
"We won't solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the UN," the prime minister responded to Abbas during his speech.
During his meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York an hour after he gave his speech before the general assembly, Netanyahu was very critical of Abbas. According to a source familiar with the proceedings of the meeting, Netanyahu told Ban that the content of Abbas' speech was bordering on incitement.
Netanyahu expressed great frustration over Abbas' dealings with Israel, especially given that over the past few weeks Israel has been providing emergency aid to the PA in order to prevent its economic collapse. Netanyahu told the secretary general that Israel has transferred advances of tens of millions of Israeli shekels to the Palestinians, and that it has taken other a series of other significant steps in recent weeks to help the PA, while Abbas did not mention one word of this in his speech, instead addressing only sharp criticism at Israel.
"Mahmoud Abbas did not say anything about what Israel did," Netanyahu said. "What did Arab states do for him lately? He just presented a distorted picture. This raises questions about the point in taking all of these steps."
Foreign Minister Lieberman expressed even harsher criticism during his meeting on Thursday with the foreign ministers of France and Russia, Laurent Fabius and Sergei Lavrov. "Everyone who heard the speech of Mahmoud Abbas here understands that he does not intend, and does not want, to be a partner in a peace agreement," Lieberman told his counterparts.
According to a western diplomat, Abbas' speech at the UNGA was a sign of the weariness of the Palestinian Authority President. This weariness, the diplomat said, has come out in meetings between Abbas and the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with the UN secretary general, and with a number of other leaders during his time in New York this week.
"In all the discussions Abbas says that he has had enough and that he is going to resign from his position," the western diplomat said. "He even said that he has asked the Palestinian leadership to pick someone to replace him."
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