JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel accused Western-backed Palestinian leaders on Thursday of committing “incitement” by endorsing the honoring of militants involved in deadly attacks.
An official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said complaints had been lodged with the White House and State Department against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayad for the alleged incidents.
Publication of the complaint came within days of an expected visit by President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell for a fresh round of shuttle diplomacy aimed at resuming Israeli-Palestinian negotiations stalled since 2008.
Israeli reports charged Abbas had endorsed honors to a militant behind a 1978 bus hijacking in which more than 30 people were killed, and Fayad hailed three other militants killed by Israeli forces after being accused of murdering a Jewish settler.
An Israeli official, referring to these reports, told Reuters that “over last few days the Israeli government has raised very serious concerns with the United States about activities of incitement in the Palestinian Authority.”
Ron Dermer, a senior policy adviser to Netanyahu, added in a statement that “these terrorists are murderers not martyrs. We expect the Palestinian Authority to prepare the Palestinian people to live in peace with Israel, not to glorify killers.”
Israel has accused Palestinians of flouting obligations under a peace “road map” to crack down on violence by militants, but this time seemed also to be countering Abbas’s latest insistence on a total freeze in Jewish settlements in the West Bank before peace talks may resume.
Israel has frozen most settlements for 10 months, although it is still building new homes in parts of East Jerusalem captured from Jordan in the 1967 war.
Spokesmen for Abbas, who was traveling in the Arab world, could not immediately be reached, while officials in Fayad’s office declined to comment on the Israeli charge.
Abbas signaled on Monday he was considering a proposal to relaunch talks at a U.S.-backed summit with Israeli and Egyptian leaders, which Netanyahu proposed on a visit to Cairo last week.
Mitchell told U.S. television on Wednesday he planned to return to the region in the next few days and thought “the negotiation should last no more than two years, once begun.”
Additional reporting by Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah