Avigdor Lieberman urges foreign powers to press for Palestinian elections to unseat President Mahmoud Abbas

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Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has formally urged Western powers and Russia to press for Palestinian elections as a means of unseating President Mahmoud Abbas whom he blamed for a rise in “activity against Israel” .

The latest effort by the ultranationalist foreign minister to delegitimise the Palestinian President was condemned by Mr Abbas’s spokesman as “incitement” while  Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to distance himself from the letter sent to the international “Quartet” of the US, EU, UN and Russia.

In the letter, whose recipients included Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, Mr Lieberman, blamed Mr Abbas for obstructing a peace process and called for elections to bring in a “hopefully realistic” Palestinian leadership to replace a “despotic government riddled with corruption.”  

Understandably, given that Mr Abbas is a byword for moderation, and that there is continued co-operation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces, Mr Lieberman did not attempt to blame the Palestinian President for fostering terrorism.

Instead, in the letter sent this week and leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, he charged the Palestinian leadership with “activity against Israel” in the “diplomatic and legal arenas,” despite a series of economic concessions made to the PA. He said this included "attempts to accelerate illegal construction in Area C (including dragging the EU into this problematic activity.” The EU has recently expressed growing concern about demolitions of Palestinian houses, settlement growth and settler violence in Area C, the part of the West Bank under sole Israeli control.

Mr Lieberman said that Mr Abbas was "either uninterested or unable" to reach a peace agreement with Israel. Without specifying the PA’s current warning that it may seek UN “non-member state” affiliation to the UN General Assembly next month, he accused Mr Abbas of “creating a culture of blaming Israel for delaying the process, while attempting to achieve advantages without negotiation via blackmailing and ongoing attempts to internationalise the conflict.”

Mr Abbas has been pressing for a new settlement freeze before negotiations, and has also been calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners detained before the 1993 Oslo accords.

An official in Mr Netanyahu’s office said the letter did not reflect the “attitudes of the Prime minister or the government as a whole.” While Mr Abbas had “raised difficulties” that had prevented a resumption of negotiations, Israel was still seeking such a resumption. It did not interfere in “politics in another place.”