Netanyahu rips Abbas over Al-Aksa destruction claims


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned a speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in which Abbas said that Israel was planning to destroy the Al Aksa Mosque.

"This is a harshly inflammatory speech from someone who claims that he is bent on peace," Netanyahu said in a statement issued from his office Sunday night. "The time has come for the Palestinian leadership to stop denying the past and distorting reality."

Netanyahu said that in Jerusalem, under Israeli sovereignty, "There is freedom of worship for all, and Israel will continue to carefully maintain the holy places of all religions."

In a speech Sunday at the International Conference for the Defense of Jerusalem in Qatar, Abbas said that "The Israeli occupation authorities are using the ugliest and most dangerous means to implement plans to erase and remove the Arab-Islamic and the Christian character of  east Jerusalem" and spoke of Israel’s plans to "Judaize" Jerusalem, including ethnic cleansing of Arabs.

Abbas also denied the existence of a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and accused Israel of planning to harm the Al Aksa mosque. He also called on Arabs and Muslims to visit Jerusalem.

"Abu Mazen [Abbas] knows full well that there is no foundation to his contemptible remarks, including his baseless and irresponsible claims regarding the Al Aksa Mosque," Netanyahu said in the statement.

Several Israeli-Arab lawmakers, including Ahmed Tibi, Taleb al-Sana and Ibrahim Sarsour of the United Arab List-Ta’al party, attended the conference along with representatives of 70 other countries. 

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