Netanyahu and Abbas Jerusalem, Sept. 15, 2010.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, should take Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's condolences over the Holocaut at face value. Photo by AP
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted Palestinian President Mahmoud's Abbas on Sunday after Abbas released a special message condemning the Holocaust as one of the most "heinous" crimes against humanity in modern history.  

"Rather than releasing declarations aimed at soothing international public opinion, he must choose between Hamas and true peace," Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

Abbas, Netanyahu said, has "made a covenant" with the Hamas movement, which "denies the Holocaust and is attempting to create another Holocaust by destroying the state of Israel," Netanyahu said, adding that  he "hope[s] [Abbas] will escape this covenant and return to the path of real peace."

In Abbas' statement, published on the website of the official Palestinian news agency WAFA in both Arabic and English, he offered his sympathy to the "families of the victims and the innocent people who were killed by the Nazis including the Jews and others."

This is the first time a Palestinian president has ever made such a public declaration.

The Holocaust, Abbas said, represents the "concept of ethnic discrimination and racism which the Palestinians strongly reject and act against."

Abbas also called on the international community to do whatever it can to combat racism and injustice in order "to bring justice and equity to the oppressed people wherever they are."

"The Palestinian people are suffering from injustice, oppression and denied freedom and peace, we are the first to demand to lift the injustice and racism that befell on people subjected to such crimes," Abbas said.

"On this occasion, we call on the Israeli government to seize this current opportunity to conclude a just and comprehensive peace in the region, based on the two-states vision - Israel and Palestine [living] side by side in peace and security," he said.

Haaretz reported last week that Abbas was due to release the message to the Jewish people ahead of the Israeli memorial day, which begins at sundown on Sunday.

Abbas promised to issue such a statement at a meeting last week in Ramallah with Schneier, former vice-president of the World Jewish Congress and head of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

"I heard what was said about Abbas' attitude toward the Holocaust, but was surprised to hear how clear he was on this issue when meeting me," Schneier told Haaretz.

A number of senior Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, have declared over the past year that Abbas is anti-Semitic and a Holocaust denier. Their claims were based on Abbas' doctoral thesis from the University of Moscow, which asserted cooperation between elements in the Zionist Movement and Nazi Germany in the years before the Holocaust.

Abbas had since retracted these claims. In interviews he gave in recent years he maintained that he was not denying the Holocaust and that he recognizes the fact that six million Jews were killed during World War II.