Jerusalem, Feb. 27 – “The time has come for the Palestinian leadership to stop denying the past and distorting reality,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. He was reacting to an inciting speech Sunday in which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas re-introduced propaganda tactics to the conflict.
"This is a harshly inflammatory speech from someone who claims that he is bent on peace,” the Israeli premier said.
In his speech, Abbas cast doubt on the existence of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest shrine, and accused Israel of trying to harm the al-Aqsa mosque, the Ha’aretz Newspaper reported. Abbas also asserted that Israel is using various means to conduct ethnic cleansing against the Arab residents of East Jerusalem.
Responding, Netanyahu said: “Jerusalem, under Israeli sovereignty, will continue to be open to believers of all faiths. There is freedom of worship for all and Israel will continue to carefully maintain the holy places of all religions.”
“(Abbas) knows full well that there is no foundation to his contemptible remarks, including his baseless and irresponsible claims regarding the Al Aqsa Mosque. The State of Israel expects that one who supposedly champions peace would prepare his people for peace and coexistence and not disseminate lies and incitement. This is not how one makes peace," Netanyahu said
The Abbas claim of “ethnic cleansing” is counter to the population statistics, which show that the Arab population of Jerusalem is at an all-time high. Under Jordanian rule before 1967, the eastern part of Jerusalem had zero growth, but the Arab population has grown faster than the Jewish population since Israel gained control of the area in 1967. While the Jewish population grew from 197,700 in 1967 to 475,100 people in 2007, (a rise of 140 percent), the Arab population grew from 68,600 to 244,800 (a rise of 257 percent).
The daily Yisrael Hayom newspaper also noted that “more Arabs currently live in the city's Jewish neighborhoods than Jews in its Arab neighborhoods.”