Israel's intelligence minister has said Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is the world's most anti-Semitic leader following the departure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president last year.
"Since Ahmadinejad left the political stage, Abu Mazen is the number one leader in injecting anti-Semitic and anti-Israel poison," Yuval Steinitz told a Tel Aviv security conference Wednesday, using the name by which Abbas is popularly known in Arabic.
"Under Abu Mazen the level of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in the (Palestinian) Authority has reached new highs, where the bottom line is the destruction of Israel," said Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.
"As someone who denied the Holocaust in his youth, he today denies the very existence of the Jewish people and their right to their own state," he told the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, according to a transcript on the INSS website.
"As long as we do not see substantive change in the (Palestinian) educational system and media, a peace agreement is an illusion."
Abbas's spokesman hit back at Steinitz on Thursday, saying Israel's own incitement was manifesting itself in the killing of Palestinians by the Israeli army.
In a statement, Nabil Abu Rudeina insisted that Palestinians would do nothing to undermine US efforts to push peace talks forward, and called on the US and Israel's government to condemn inflammatory rhetoric against Palestinian leaders.
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"After serial Israeli incitement against Abbas, with the latest incident being Steinitz's comments, Netanyahu's government, as well as the US administration, must take an official stance on this attack," Abu Rudeina said.
"The Israeli army's killing of Palestinians, including Mohammad Mubarak yesterday (Wednesday), is the natural progression from (Israel's) policy of incitement through its ministers and officials," he said.
Israeli troops shot dead 19-year-old Mubarak near the West Bank city of Ramallah, with the army alleging he had opened fire at them although witnesses insisted he was unarmed.
In his doctoral thesis at Moscow's Patrice Lumumba University, Abbas questioned the figure of six million Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust, suggesting the number could have been "fewer than one million".
But, he added, "the controversy over the figure cannot minimise in any way the atrocious crime committed against the Jews".
Israel accuses Abbas's Palestinian Authority of encouraging hostility against Israel through school textbooks and in broadcasts on its official television and radio stations.
In US-sponsored peace talks launched in July, Netanyahu is demanding that the Palestinians recognise Israel as the national state of the Jewish people.
But the Palestinians refuse to do so, fearing it could preclude the right of exiled Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to land they fled or were evicted from when Israel was created in 1948.