Netanyahu Accuses Abbas of Spreading 'Blood Libel' in European Parliament Speech

The Palestinian president has 'shown his true face in Brussels,' statement by PM's Office says, after Abbas repeats debunked claim that Israeli rabbis called to poison Palestinian water.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech at the European Union Parliament in Brussels on June 23, 2016.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech at the European Union Parliament in Brussels on June 23, 2016. John Thys, AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday of spreading a "blood libel," in the Palestiniian leader's speech to the European Parliament in Brussels.

In his remarks, Abbas repeated a widely debunked media report that Israeli rabbis had called to poison Palestinian water. 

Abbas's remarks did not appear on the official transcript issued by his office, suggesting he may have spoken off the cuff as he condemned Israeli actions against Palestinians amid stalled peace talks.

"Only a week ago, a number of rabbis in Israel announced, and made a clear announcement, demanding that their government poison the water to kill the Palestinians," Abbas said.

"Isn't that clear incitement to commit mass killings against the Palestinian people?"

Abbas, who received a standing ovation from EU lawmakers, gave no source for his information - and there has been no evidence over the past week of any call by Israeli rabbis to poison Palestinian water.

"Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] showed his true face in Brussels," a statement issued by the PM's Office said. "Someone who is refusing to meet the president [of Israel] and Prime Minister Netanyahu for direct negotiations and someone who spreads a blood libel before the European parliament is falsely claiming that his hand is extended for peace.

"Israel is waiting for the day on which Abu Mazen stops spreading lies and engaging in incitement. Until then, Israel will continue to defend itself from the Palestinian incitement, which is motivating acts of terror."

A Likud source criticized former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak after Abbas suggested they had both  warned of rising fascist tendencies in Israel.

"Most serious is that things that former ministers have said irresponsibly ... and to chase headlines have become a vehicle for besmirching Israel," the source said.

"Someone who is not contributing to Israel's public diplomacy effort would do well at least not to do any damage."

Rabbi Mlma?

Reports of an alleged rabbinical edict emerged on Sunday, when the Turkish state news agency Anadolu said that a "Rabbi Shlomo Mlma, chairman of the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank settlements", had issued an advisory to allow Jewish settlers to poison wells.

The same day, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, on its website, cited what it said was a water-poisoning call from a "Rabbi Mlmad" and demanded his arrest.

Reuters and other news outlets in Israel could not verify the reports, or locate any rabbi named Shlomo Mlma or Mlmad, and there is no listed organization called the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank.

Gulf News, in a report on Sunday, said a number of rabbis had issued the purported advisory. It attributed the allegation to Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization of veteran soldiers critical of the military's treatment of Palestinians.

A spokesman for Breaking the Silence told Reuters the group had not provided any such information.

For Jews, allegations of water poisoning strike a bitter chord. In the 14th century, as plague swept across Europe, false accusations that Jews were responsible for the disease by deliberately poisoning wells led to massacres of Jewish communities.

Reuters contributed to this story