Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday morning retracted accusations that Israeli rabbis had called for the poisoning of Palestinian wells.
The PA president had made the unsubstantiated charge in an address Thursday to the European Parliament, prompting harsh condemnation from Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing Abbas of propagating blood libel, referring to anti-Semitic allegations against Jews that arose in the Middle Ages.
The retraction, which was issued by the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Abbas chairs, said Abbas “rejected all claims that accuse him and the Palestinian people of offending the Jewish religion.”
“After it has become evident that the alleged statements by a rabbi on poisoning Palestinian wells, which were reported by various media outlets, are baseless, President Mahmoud Abbas has affirmed that he didn’t intend to do harm to Judaism or to offend Jewish people around the world,” the statement read.
The retraction also said Abbas condemned all accusations of anti-Semitism against him.
Abbas’s remarks to the European Parliament did not appear on the official transcript issued by his office, suggesting he may have spoken off the cuff as he condemned Israeli actions against Palestinians amid stalled peace talks.
“Only a week ago, a number of rabbis in Israel announced, and made a clear announcement, demanding that their government poison the water to kill the Palestinians,” Abbas said, in what appeared to be an invocation of a widely debunked media report that recalled the medieval anti-Semitic libel.
“Isn’t that clear incitement to commit mass killings against the Palestinian people?” Abbas’s remarks were made as President Reuven Rivlin made a parallel visit to Brussels. Rivlin’s office said Abbas had declined a European proposal that the two meet there. A spokesman for Abbas said any such meeting would require more preparation.
Abbas, who received a standing ovation from EU lawmakers after his speech, gave no source for his information – and there has been no evidence over the past week of any call by Israeli rabbis to poison Palestinian water.
An Israeli statement said Abbas “showed his true face in Brussels” and that “by refusing to meet with the Israeli president and with…Netanyahu for direct negotiations, and by spreading a blood libel in the European parliament, his claim that his hand is outstretched for peace is false.”
Israel said it “awaits the day when Abu Mazen [Abbas] will stop spreading lies and be[ing] involved in incitement. Until then, Israel will continue to protect itself from the Palestinian incitement, which generates acts of terror.”