Economy Minister Naftali Bennett made light of Palestinian threats to dismantle the PA if peace talks fail. His comments came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated the threat before Israeli journalists and laid out Palestinians' demands for the extensions of peace talks.
"I suggest to Abu Mazen (Abbas' nickname): If you're going to shoot, then shoot – don't talk. The State of Israel is stronger than Abu Mazen's threats," the chairman of Bayit Yehudi said at a conference in the central city of Ramla.
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Bennett further added that "We hear again and again the recycling of the same threat that if we don't go forward (with the peace process), if we don't give him everything he wants, than 'Oy va voi' for us because he will dismantle the Palestinian Authority."
Raising a rhetorical question, Bennett wondered: "If he does so for Zionistic motives, than I appreciate it. But if he uses it as a threat against us, than I ask him: What are you threatening us with? The dissolution of an authority that incites terror? The dissolution of an authority that breaches the Oslo accords? The dissolution of an authority that pays fixed stipends to murderers of Jews?"
Bennett further claimed the threat had been sounded countless time before and was thus empty. "This is the seventh time Abu Mazen has made this threat," said Bennet. "On June 14, he vowed to dissolve the government. (He did so) on July 30 2008, on December 27 2012, and in this way has threatened to dismantle the PA six times."
Touching upon the core issues of peace talks, Bennet asked:"What is Abu Mazen essentially telling us? That if we don't release murdering terrorists, if we don't divide Jerusalem, if we don't retreat – he will commit suicide. Friends, he must improve the incentive. Something here isn't working."
Abbas told a group of Israeli journalists on Tuesday that if peace talks do not continue, Israel will have to take on the burden of governing Palestinian lands.
Though Abbas has repeatedly hinted that he could devolve some of the limited powers his Palestinian Authority exercises in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, his statement added urgency to a U.S. effort to extend negotiations set to expire next week.
"If the negotiations stop, it's the Israeli government that will bear the responsibility for the economic situation and the paying of the salaries of (Palestinian) employees, workers and farmers, for health and for education just as it did before the establishment of the Authority," he told the reporters visiting his presidential headquarters in Ramallah.
"Also it will bear responsibility for security, meaning Israel will bear full responsibility ... We hope that we won't come to this period but that we come to solutions," he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also belittled the PA's threat to dismantle, saying on Monday: "Yesterday the Palestinian Authority discussed dismantling, today it is mulling uniting with Hamas. Let them decide whether to dismantle or unite."
A Palestinian source slammed the comments, saying: "Netanyahu's office response shows how unserious Israel's government is. There is a huge difference between peace talks which lead to a peace accord, and talks which are a waste of time, like the ways of Netanyahu."
Source: Abbas doesn't want peace
Also on Tuesday, a senior political source responded to the demands set forth byAbbas, according to which the Palestinians would be willing to extend peace talks if Israel would freeze settlement construction, and talks would focus on delineating final border arrangements between Israel and the future-Palestinian state.
"The meaning of what Abbas said," the source said, "is that the Palestinians do not want peace. Because those who do (want peace) do not continue to make demands they know Israel cannot accept."
The source further added: "Abbas wants to receive without giving anything, he will continue to do so until the international community will demand he treat talks seriously and focus on making process."
The source also slammed Abbas for reconciliation talks his Fatah party is holding with rival Palestinian faction Hamas – which split after Hamas violently ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip in 2007 – and are now attempting to bury the hatchet, with a PLO delegation arriving in Gaza
"Behind the empty statements on peace, Abu Mazen (Abbas' nickname) is holding unity talks with Hamas, which around the world is considered a terror organization bent on destroying Israel and killing Jews."
"When they want peace, they should let us know," the source said, "Because we want a lasting peace. Today, on a holiday, our enemies launched rockets on our towns, and our policy is clear – respond with immediacy and intensity."
Moran Azyulay contributed to this report.