Palestinians: Lieberman's Remarks Are an Explicit Threat on Abbas' Life

PA letter to PM Netanyahu demands Israel apologizes after FM says Palestinian President should be 'removed immediately,' calling him 'greatest obstacle' to Mideast peace.

Comments by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman urging the replacement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas represented a direct threat on Abbas' life, an official Palestinian Authority letter addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

On Monday, Lieberman severely criticized the Palestinian president, telling reporters that it would be a "blessing" if Abbas were to resign.

Lieberman at UN - AP - Sept. 23, 2011

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"If there is one obstacle that should be removed immediately, it is [Abbas]," he said. "If he were to return the keys and resign, it would not be a threat, but a blessing."

"The only thing that interests Abbas is to inscribe himself in the history books as he who brought about the Palestinian state and the reconciliation with Hamas," Lieberman added. "Anyone who succeeds him would be better for Israel. If Abu Mazen goes, there would be a chance to reignite the peace process."

In a letter sent to Netanyahu's office on Tuesday, the PA's minister of civilian affairs, Hussein a-Sheikh demanded that the Israeli government issue a formal apology for the FM's comments, saying that they represented a direct threat to Abbas's life.

"In the name of the Palestinian Authority, we condemn the statements made by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, which carry explicit incitement against President Mahmoud Abbas," the letter read, adding: "We consider the comments to be a direct threat against a natural partner for peace."

"The statements do not serve the peace process between the sides and we see them as an explicit call to kill president Abbas," a-Sheikh said, adding that Lieberman's attack could be "seen as a green light that could be taken advantage by extremists."

The letter called on the Israeli government to "condemn the statements and apologize for them, since they were uttered by a government official."

Earlier Monday, the EU chided Lieberman for his comments on Abbas, with European Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton saying that "the reported remarks of Israel's foreign minister ... are regrettably not helpful to create the environment of trust conducive to negotiations."

"The EU has consistently called for reconciliation behind President Abbas as an important element for reaching a two-state solution," she added.

In another apparent comment on Lieberman's remarks, President Shimon Peres offered public support to the Palestinian leadership, saying that "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are serious leaders who want peace and are working to prevent violence and extremism in our area."