Leader of orthodox Israeli party calls for death of Abbas


THE SPIRITUAL leader of Shas, an ultra-Orthodox party in Israel’s governing coalition, has called on the Lord to “strike down” Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Only days before Mr Abbas is due to sit down in Washington in face-to-face talks with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef termed the Palestinian president an evil hater of Israel.

“Abu Mazen [Mr Abbas] and all these evil people should perish from this world. God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians,” he said in his weekly sermon in Jerusalem.

Shas has four ministers in the Netanyahu government and has adopted a hardline stance on Palestinians.

Rabbi Yosef (89) is a respected rabbinical scholar who wields almost total control over the ultra-Orthodox party, which gains most of its support from Sephardic Jews who originated from Middle Eastern states.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat described the comments as an incitement to murder and demanded an apology from the Israeli government .

“Ovadia called for the assassination of President Abbas, who in several days will sit face-to-face with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Is this the way the Israeli government is preparing its public for a peace agreement?” he asked.

Mr Netanyahu’s office said the rabbi’s views did not reflect those of the prime minister or government. “Israel is engaging in negotiations out of a desire to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, which will put an end to the conflict and guarantee peace, security, and good neighborly relations between the two nations,” the statement read.

In the same conciliatory tone, Mr Netanyahu said yesterday that if the Palestinians came to this week’s peace talks in Washington with “the same degree of seriousness as Israel”, it would be possible to reach an enduring peace that will last for generations.

“I am aware of the difficulties, I’m not downplaying them and I know that we will face many obstacles,” he said. “The question is whether the Palestinians are willing to establish peace for the future generations or just reach a tactical pause between wars and terrorism.

“I hope their aspiration for peace is based on recognition and security, stability and economic growth. This is my goal and I hope it’s the Palestinians’ goal too.”

He stressed however that Israel planned to resume construction in West Bank settlements when the 10-month freeze imposed by the government ended on September 26th.

Palestinian officials have repeatedly warned that such a move will derail the peace talks.

Jordan’s King Abdullah, who, with Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak, will travel to Washington for Thursday’s relaunch of direct bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, hosted Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak in Amman yesterday.

Mr Barak said Jordan held a central position in the search for regional peace and helping the sides clinch an agreement. King Abdullah stressed that the engagement in negotiations must be serious and honest in order to give as quick a resolution as possible to all the core issues.