The peace process is not getting much help from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who declared that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is “an obstacle” to peace, a declaration some took as a direct threat against the Palestinian leader.
The statement came just days after Lieberman told the world to stay out of the peace talks, calling it no one but Israel and the Palestinians’ business. The personal words against the Palestinian leader, meanwhile, have been deemed by Palestinians as “barbaric” and “a direct threat to Abbas.” Even Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke out in defense of the Palestinian leadership, saying they are committed to the process and “are working to prevent violence and extremism in the region.”
The comments from Israel’s far-right politician have also caused concern within the EU and UN. A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the EU finds remarks like Lieberman’s “regrettably not helpful.”
However, the claim that Abbas stepping down would be “a blessing” drew no comment from Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who continues to speak in favor of peace talks with his Palestinian counterparts. This latest twist in the process comes as representatives of both sides met separately with Middle East Quartet members in an attempt to get the two sides to resume direct negotiations.
Many say that Lieberman’s comments will only delay such a possibility, and some even say that it is the man himself who is the biggest stumbling block to peace talks.
Gideon Levy, a journalist in Tel Aviv, told RT that Lieberman “gets support from speaking this way. He built his political power on extreme, radical, anti-Arab, racist emotions.”
Levy also said he believes the Israeli foreign minister is shifting focus away from himself.
“I think Avigdor Lieberman is much more of an obstacle to the peace process in the Middle East, much more than Mahmoud Abbas,” Levy told RT.