Just ahead of renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestine, an influential Israeli spiritual leader has denounced the move, dubbing the Palestinians and their leader “an evil and bitter enemies of Israel” who should ” perish from this world.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the upcoming launch of peace talks an opportunity to secure endurable peace, lasting generations.
But, Ovadia Yosef, spiritual head of the religious Shas party in the government, denounced the talks, scheduled to kickstart on September 2, and said, “Abu Mazen (nom de guerre for Abbas) and all these evil people should perish from this world,”
“God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians,” Rabbi Ovadia was quoted as saying during his weekly sermon at a synagogue near his Jerusalem home.
The Shas party mentor also called the Palestinians “evil, bitter enemies of Israel” during his speech, which is not the Rabbi’s first sermon that has sparked controversy.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu today said he is optimistic that a that a deal will be reached during the talks.
“I am convinced that if the Palestinian leadership takes the negotiations as seriously as we do, we can reach a stable agreement, not just a deal for a tactical ceasefire between wars,”
“We can reach a peace based on stability for us and for our children and that is my goal,” he said.
Earlier, in 2001, the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox faction had called for “Arabs’ annihilation”.
“It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable,” he was then quoted as saying.
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, who is also the Chairman of the Shas party, earlier this week said that he would oppose extending the West Bank settlement building freeze due to expire on September 26.
Yishai has suggested that Israel would continue construction in the main settlement blocs likely to remain part of Israel in the framework of a peace deal, but freeze construction in outposts or more remote settlements.
Netanyahu has so far refused to address Palestinian demands to continue a 10-month freeze on the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, described by PA as a deal breaker.
Washington has invited the Israeli premier, PA President, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah and Quartet envoy in the region, Tony Blair, to attend the conference on September 2 to launch direct negotiations between the two sides, stalled for almost two years.
The Quartet of international peace mediators in the region comprises of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia