‘I prevented wars’: Gantz defends meetings with Abbas

Following Abbas’s Holocaust comments, Defense Minister draws fire for hosting the Palestinian leader in his home. 

By Debbie Reiss, World Israel News

Amid a furor over Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Holocaust comments, Defense Minister Benny Gantz defended his meetings with the Palestinian leader, saying the talks “prevented wars.”

“It’s best if those who aren’t responsible for sending soldiers to battle and aren’t responsible for the lives of the citizens of Israel and the soldiers in the IDF, don’t lecture me about meetings that prevented and are preventing the next war, and are bringing stability out in the field and freedom and diplomatic freedom,” Gantz said.

“Thanks to the coordination by the lower ranks in the field, by the heads of the defense networks, and myself, the lives of many soldiers and civilians were saved. Whoever wants to stick their heads in the sand and ignore the complex security and diplomatic reality, is not fit to take the wheel and lead the state of Israel.”

His statement came in response to heavy criticism by lawmakers about Gantz’s decision to hold meetings with Abbas, including one at his home in Rosh HaAyin.

In a post on Twitter, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party wrote: “Abbas’ Holocaust denial is shocking and dangerous, and the obsessive cooperation of [Prime Minister Yair] Lapid and Gantz with him and his followers is equally dangerous.”

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Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked wrote: “Abbas is fighting IDF soldiers in the Hague and is denying the Holocaust in Germany. We can’t legitimize him, and we certainly can’t invite him to Rosh Ha’ayin.”

Gantz concluded his statement: “I hope to continue and responsibly conduct diplomacy in the area, specifically with the Palestinians, for Israel’s safety and not out of political consideration.”

Gantz first met with Abbas in Ramallah a year ago. The meeting discussed cooperation on the security front and preventing terrorism and violence, a statement from his office said at the time.

Gantz also told Abbas that he wished to continue promoting cooperation on economic and civil matters.

At the time, Israeli officials, including then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, denounced the meeting.

Abbas on Wednesday afternoon walked back his rhetoric that Israel had perpetrated “50 holocausts” against the Palestinian people but stopped short of apologizing.

“President Mahmoud Abbas reaffirm [sic] that the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern human history,” read the statement.

“Stressing that his answer was not intended to deny the singularity of the Holocaust that occurred in the last century, and condemning it in the strongest terms.”

The statement then said, “What is meant by the crimes that President Mahmoud Abbas spoke about are the crimes and massacres committed against the Palestinian people since the Nakba at the hands of the Israeli forces. These crimes have not stopped to this day.”

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