Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday morning that false allegations that Israeli rabbis called to poison Palestinian wells – which Netanyahu and others referred to as an anti-Semitic “blood libel” – made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) at the European Union Parliament last week demonstrate Abbas’ lack of intentions to advance the peace process with Israel.
“I think that Abu Mazen, last week, again proved to the entire world that he is not interested in direct negotiations with Israel,” Netanyahu said before his weekly cabinet meeting. “Worse, he also spread abhorrent lies about the State of Israel and Judaism.”
The prime minister was referencing remarks made by Mahmoud Abbas during his address to the European Parliament on Thursday in which Abbas falsely claimed that “a number of rabbis in Israel announced, and made a clear announcement, demanding that their government poison the water to kill the Palestinians.”
The claim, which echoes medieval-era libels against Jews during the Black Death plague, had been widely debunked by Israeli and international media outlets before the speech.
Prime Minister Netanyahu responded by accusing Abbas of spreading an anti-Semitic “blood libel”.
MK Michael Oren (Kulanu), former Israeli ambassador to the US and a respected historian, echoed the prime minister told TPS that “objectively, empirically, and historically it was a blood libel. Tens of thousands of Jews lost their lives because of those rumors.”
“It is not just any anti-Semitic comment,” continued Oren. “It is an anti-Semitic comment that has deep and horrific reverberations for Europe and Europe’s history.”
The Palestine Liberation Organization’s Negotiations Affairs Department announced on Friday night that Abbas had withdrawn his accusations.
“After it has become evident that the alleged statements by a Rabbi on poisoning Palestinian wells, which were reported by various media outlets, are baseless, President Mahmoud Abbas has affirmed that he didn’t intend to do harm to Judaism or to offend Jewish people around the world,” the office said in a press release. “This is rooted in the President’s deep respect for all religions including Judaism.”
Despite the apology, Netanyahu did not absolve Abbas for originally making such a claim in front of the entire European Parliament.
“True, he quickly apologized, with a halfhearted half-apology, but the words he said there were in keeping with what he has said about us on other occasions, including at the UN General Assembly,” Netanyahu responded. “Therefore, I think that people can conclude from this who wants to advance peace and a peace process and who does not.”
Netanyahu is scheduled to fly to Rome on Sunday to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the possibility of restarting negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.