Netanyahu, Abbas trade barbs over Jerusalem

JERUSALEM Sun Feb 26, 2012 2:08pm EST

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) stands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before their meeting in Jerusalem, September 15, 2010. REUTERS/Lior Mizrahi/Pool

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) stands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before their meeting in Jerusalem, September 15, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Lior Mizrahi/Pool

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel Sunday of trying to erase any Arabic identity from Jerusalem, drawing a strong response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who criticized the comments as inflammatory and contemptible.

Abbas, speaking at a conference in Qatar, said that for the past few years Israel has been waging a "final battle" aimed at erasing the Arab, Muslim and Christian character of East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan during the 1967 Middle East war.

Netanyahu called the Palestinian leader's remarks "a harshly inflammatory speech from someone who claims that he is bent on peace."

"(Abbas) knows full well that there is no foundation to his contemptible remarks," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

The strong words from both sides underscore how much the holy city has been a sticking point in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that have made little progress in recent years.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they are looking to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu, who opposes dividing the city, said that Jerusalem has been the "eternal capital for the Jewish people" for thousands of years. He said that Israel will continue to maintain the city's holy sites and freedom of worship for all.

Abbas said that through settlement building in the West Bank and Jerusalem, Israel is carrying out an "ethnic cleansing, in every sense against the Palestinian residents in order to turn them into minorities in their own city."

Tensions are often high in Jerusalem and surroundings. Israeli police clashed with Palestinian stone throwers last week

in the West Bank and at al Aqsa mosque in the Old City.

(Reporting by Jihan Abdalla, Roleen Tafakji and Ari Rabinovitch)

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Comments (5)
USAalltheway wrote:
Abbas belongs in a circus as a clown rather than a supposed leader of a made up people.

Feb 26, 2012 2:49pm EST  --  Report as abuse
DrZogg wrote:
I guess USAalltheway really means to be Israelalltheway since this sort of blind support for illegal Israeli actions does nothing to help our country. As for “made up people”, what a joke — i suppose you think that people flying over from Europe and laying claim to a land where they never lived is legitimate. Go read some history from an objective source.

What’s happening in Jerusalem is exactly what Abbas says — a continuing effort by Israel to *erase* Christians and Muslims from the city. Starting with illegal annexation, arbitrary expulsions from homes, revocation or denial of housing permits without authorization, etc.

Feb 26, 2012 3:51pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Tiu wrote:
After the ancient Jewish state of Israel was erased and Jerusalem reduced to Aelia Capitolina, a dusty Roman outpost it was re-built by Emperor Constantine, the first officially Christian Roman Emperor. It was consequently conquered during the rise of Islam from the 8th century onwards. Any one sect trying to claim historical ownership of this piece of dirt is never going to convince anyone other than themselves.

Feb 26, 2012 4:07pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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