Israel’s outspoken Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday singled out Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas as the main obstacle to peace and called for his resignation.
Referring to past comments by Abbas that he would not run again for president, Lieberman told journalists at a briefing in Jerusalem that his departure would be “a blessing,” spokesman Ashley Perry told AFP.
“He’s threatening to give the keys over to someone else? That’s no threat, it’s a blessing and I hope he finally does it,” Israeli news website Ynet quoted Lieberman as saying.”Any replacement would be better than him.”
Perry did not have a transcript of Lieberman’s remarks available but said the Ynet account was accurate.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat protested that Lieberman’s comments were part of a broader Israeli campaign to try to delegitimize Abbas.
He called on the international community “to intervene and take immediate action to stop the Israeli campaign of incitement against president Abbas and the Palestinian people.”
A spokesman for U.N. Middle East envoy Robert Serry described Lieberman’s comments as “inflammatory”.
“The statement by Foreign Minister Lieberman appears to be an attempt to delegitimize president Abbas,” spokesman Richard Miron told AFP.
“Such inflammatory remarks are deeply troubling and undermine trust at a time when the Quartet is working towards the resumption of negotiations,” the United Nations envoy said.
Envoys of the Middle East Quartet – made up of the EU, Russia, U.N. and United States – are to meet in Jerusalem on Wednesday separately with Israeli and Palestinian officials to seek a way to break the impasse in peace talks, suspended in September 2010.
The Palestinians say face-to-face talks with Israel will not resume as long as Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank continues.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly offered to freeze government settlement construction.
But the Palestinians say that represents a small portion of overall settlement building in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, terming anything short of a full freeze as unacceptable.