Netanyahu Says Abbas ''Grossly Distorting History'

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JERUSALEM, Israel - An op-ed in Monday's New York Times by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spurred a response by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the article, entitled "The Long Overdue Palestinian State," Abbas wrote that "negotiations remain our first option" --  this despite the P.A.'s refusal to come to the negotiating table with the Netanyahu government.

The P.A. president also expressed his support for the newly formed Fatah-Hamas unity coalition, though Hamas -- on the U.S. and E.U.'s list of terror organizations -- is sworn to Israel's destruction.

But it was putting the onus on Israel for the "expulsion" of the Arab people from their "historic homeland" in 1948 that Netanyahu couldn't brush aside.

"This is a gross distortion of well-known and [well]-documented historical facts," Netanyahu said in a statement posted on The Prime Minister's Office website.

"It was the Palestinians who rejected the [United Nations] partition plan for two states, while the Jewish leadership accepted it," he said.

"It was the armies of Arab countries -- assisted by Palestinian forces -- that attacked the Jewish state to destroy it. None of this is mentioned in the article," Netanyahu noted.

Israel's prime minister also took exception to Abbas saying the "Palestinian refugee" issue factored into the outbreak of the 1948 war.

"The Palestinian refugees were an outcome of that war, not a cause," Netanyahu said. "Some Palestinian leaders themselves urged the Palestinians to vacate the land to make it easier for the Arab armies to fight for the destruction of Israel."

Netanyahu also rejected Abbas' concept that U.N. acceptance "would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one."

"It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice," Abbas said.

To this Netanyahu said "one could conclude from the article that the Palestinian leadership views the establishment of a Palestinian state as a way to continue the conflict with Israel rather than end it."

Meanwhile in a post Tuesday on The Atlantic website, correspondent Jerry Goldberg wrote that Abbas contradicted himself in his accounts of his family's departure from Safed, The Jerusalem Post reported.

In the Times op-ed, Abbas claimed his family was "forced" to leave Safed -- a city in north central Israel. But that version didn't jibe with a 2007 recounting in which Abbas said his family left their home voluntarily because they feared reprisal for the 1929 Arab massacre of the Jews in Hevron.

"There is no particular reason to hope for a successful peace process when the leader of the Palestinians is selling a false history of Israel's independence," Goldberg wrote.

"Mahmoud Abbas cannot bring himself to note that the Jews accepted the partition plan, while the Arabs rejected it and went to war to extinguish the new Jewish state in the cradle and then lost their offensive war," he said.

Goldberg also pointed out that thousands of Jews were expelled from Arab countries where they had lived for centuries, the same point made by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon earlier this week.

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