But the claim about poisoning water, which was widely circulated by Arabic media this week, has largely been debunked by international news outlets and is flatly denied by Israelis, who compared Abbas’s words to the anti-Semitic blood libels of medieval Europe.
The alleged rabbinical edict was first reported Sunday by Turkish news agency Anadolu. It said that a “Rabbi Shlomo Mlma, chairman of the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank settlements,” had issued an advisory to allow Jewish settlers to take such action, Reuters reported.
But Reuters and none of the other news agencies in Israel were able to locate any rabbi named Shlomo Mlma or Mlmad, and there is no record of an organization called the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank.
Abbas and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin were in Brussels this week to meet with European officials who are hoping to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Over the past few months, the French, with international support, have been pushing their own initiative.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz had hoped the two presidents would meet while in Brussels, but Abbas turned down the invitation. He even went so far as changing hotels because the Israeli president was staying in the same place.
"In Brussels Abu Mazen showed his true face,” the bureau of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote in a statement, referring to Abbas by his popular nickname. “Someone who refuses to meet President Rivlin and spreads a blood libel in the European Parliament falsely claims that his hand is extended in peace.”
In his address to the European Parliament, Rivlin was critical of the French initiative, which he said “suffers from fundamental faults.”
“The attempt to return to negotiations for negotiations’ sake not only does not bring us near the long-awaited solution, but rather drags us further away from it,” he said in his speech to the European Parliament. “Currently, the practical conditions, the political and regional circumstances, which would enable us to reach a permanent agreement between us — the Israelis and the Palestinians — are failing to materialize.”
Abbas, however, said Palestinians support the French initiative.
“We are seeking real and comprehensive peace that guarantees security for all and leads to the full Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied territories,” Abbas said. “We want our people to live in peace in their independent, sovereign state, next to a secure Israel.”