Netanyahu Slams Abbas, Says He Again Proves He's Not Interested in Direct Negotiations With Israel

Speaking of the impending reconciliation deal with Turkey, prime minister says the government is acting to return the soldiers and civilians missing in Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 26, 2016.
Dan Balilty, Reuters

A few hours before he departed for a meeting in Rome with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly criticized PA President Mahmoud Abbas for his recent remarks at the European Parliament.

Speaking at the European Parliament last week, Abbas claimed that rabbis call to poison Palestinians' water wells in the West Bank. He retracted his comments over the weekend.

"Abu Mazen again proved that he isn’t interested in direct negotiations with Israel, and worse than that, he is spreading despicable lies about Israel and Judaism," Netanyahu said at Sunday's cabinet meeting, referring to Abbas. "While he was quick to issue a feeble, half-hearted apology, what he said is compatible with the things he's said at other opportunities, including at the UN, and people can conclude from this who wishes to advance peace and who doesn’t."  

Against the backdrop of protests by the families of a soldier and a civilian who are missing in the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu also said at the cabinet meeting that "there is a lot of disinformation and misinformation on the possible deal being formulated with Turkey."

Netanyahu added that the government is acting in overt and covert ways to return the two soldiers and two civilians missing from Gaza. "We are in constant touch with the families, and we will not rest or be silent until we return them home," he said.

The families of Oron Shaul, a soldier who was killed in the 2014 Gaza war and whose remains haven’t been recovered, and the family of Avera Mengistu, a citizen who went missing after crossing the border into Gaza apparently of his own volition in 2014, protested in Jerusalem on Sunday morning in criticism of Israel's impending reconciliation agreement with Turkey because it does not stipulate the return of their sons. 

Also at the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu referred for the first time to the outcome of the British referendum to leave the European Union, saying that Britain's choice to leave the EU "doesn’t have any direct impact on Israel, aside from the fact that we're part of the global economy."

Netanyahu noted that he held a discussion over the weekend with the finance minister and the head of the Bank of Israel to discuss the repercussions on the Israeli economy. "Israel's economy is robust and strong," he said. "We have a large amount of foreign currency reserves and therefore if there will be an effect it won't be significant. Israel's situation is good."   

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said at the beginning of the meeting that the treasury and the Bank of Israel are following the economic effects related to Israel as a result of a British secession from the EU.

"We've established a situation room at the treasury that follows the developments and is manned 24 hours a day," he noted. "We have a strong and stable economy that is ready to deal with any possible scenario and challenge."