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Japanese PM Visits Ramallah, As PA President Abbas Comes Under Fire For Holocaust Remarks

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe found himself in the middle of an international firestorm as he visited Ramallah on Tuesday, as condemnations of a speech given the previous evening by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas poured in from around the world. In his address opening the first meeting in a decade of the Palestinian National Council, the top legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization which is considered the official voice of the Palestinian people, Abbas stated that the Holocaust was not fueled by European anti-Semitism, but, rather, brought upon by Jews themselves due to their “social behavior,” including money-lending practices. The PA president also claimed that Jews have “no historical ties” to Israel, the creation of which in 1948 he described as a European colonial project. In response, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has been boycotted by the Palestinian leadership (Abbas previously referred to him as a “son of a dog”), described the comments as a “new low,” adding that the remarks evidence that Israel is not responsible for the historical failure of American-led efforts to forge a peace deal. For his part, Jason Greenblatt, the Trump administration’s lead negotiator, called the PA boss’ statements “very unfortunate, very distressing [and] terribly disheartening,” concluding that “peace cannot be built on this kind of foundation.” The sentiments were echoed by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who asserted that “the Holocaust-denying Abu Mazen [Abbas’ nom de guerre] revealed in Arabic what he hides in English: that he is the head of those inciting against the existence of the Jewish state in the Land of Israel.” Despite Abbas’ ongoing refusal to engage in any U.S.-led peace process—this, due to Washington’s recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—he nevertheless told Abe that the PA is willing to cooperate on any international effort to jump-start talks based on the two-state solution and existing United Nations resolutions. The Palestinian leader called on Tokyo—which has long been a major financial contributor to the PA—to take an active role in devising such a mechanism. Abe was slated to meet on Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other senior officials in Jerusalem.

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