There is no place for a Palestinian state alongside Israel at the current time, Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon said on Saturday. Ya'alon is largely thought to be first in line to be appointed defense minister in the new government after the January 22 elections.
"The person who is refusing to come to the negotiating table is [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas," Ya'alon said at a cultural event in central Israel on Saturday. "The goals of Abbas are the same as the goals of Hamas."
"As far as I’m concerned, there is an entity in Gaza that can call itself the United Islamic Republic and the Palestinian Authority can call itself the Palestinian Empire," Ya'alon said, referring to the Palestinian Authority's recent re-branding of itself as the "State of Palestine."
In an exclusive interview with Israel Hayom on Friday, Ya'alon said that Abbas was not a partner for peace because "he has never said that the occupation began in 1967. Instead, he insists that the occupation is 64 years old. This is hope? No, this is a delusion.”
“Stop talking about a solution,” Ya'alon said. “Let’s instead talk about a path that we must follow, and that path is construction. We need to invest in education, infrastructure, settlement, science, and technology. This is the real hope. There is no partner for an agreement.”
The Palestinian Authority harshly condemned Ya'alon's statements.
"These are grave threats against Abbas, which are identical to the threats the Israeli government made against Yasser Arafat," senior Palestinian Authority official Saeb Erekat said.
Erekat asserted that Israel's goal was to undermine the public image of Abbas.
"Israel's claims sound like a broken record," Erekat said. "President Abbas adheres to international law and Israel's threats do not frighten us."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his lack of confidence in Abbas as a peace partner last Thursday as Abbas met with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal in Cairo as part of a reconciliation effort between Abbas' Fatah and Hamas, mediated by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
"Abbas embraces the head of a terrorist organization that declared just one month ago that Israel needs to be wiped off the map," Netanyahu said. "That is not how someone with their eyes toward peace behaves."