On August 27, 2012, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas met in his Ramallah office with a delegation of rabbis headed by former Israeli minister Michael Melchior. After expressing hope that war would not break out between Israel and Iran, 'Abbas said: "Israel was founded in order to remain and not in order to vanish, [but] its continued [existence] should not be at the expense of the absent Palestinian state." He stressed the importance of dialogue among the monotheistic religions as a way to attain peace with security and stability for everyone.
'Abbas's meeting with the rabbis
'Abbas's statements angered Hamas, which accused him of trying to be more Israeli than the Israelis.
The following are excerpts from responses by Hamas officials and a Hamas columnist.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that 'Abbas's statements came as "a shock to the Palestinian people," adding: "We have condemned such statements coming from Israeli leaders, so we must certainly [condemn them] when made by a Palestinian." He also took the opportunity to challenge 'Abbas's legitimacy, stating that his term as president had ended and that there was no consensus over his remaining in office.
Hamas political bureau member 'Izzat Rishq urged 'Abbas to retract his statement because "Israel is a satanic seed and a usurping and occupying entity that is destined to disappear." Another bureau member, Khalil Al-Hayya, said: "Israel was founded in order to vanish and not in order to remain. We are planning for the day of victory and for the day of its disappearance."
Yousuf Rizqa, an advisor to Hamas Prime Minister Isma'il Haniya, said that if 'Abbas could not speak properly, he should be silent. Commenting on his remarks about Iran, he said: "Leave [the issue of eliminating Israel] to Iran, and do not set yourself up as another Israeli Knesset member defending Israel's future... The Palestinian yearns for Israel's disappearance because he wants his rights back, whereas the Israeli works to wipe the Palestinians off the map. Smart diplomacy does not mean that the Palestinian must masquerade as an Israeli and speak his language. As a leader, [you must] consider the feelings of your people and represent their conscience and the conscience of the martyrs. If you are unable to speak [for them, remember that] silence is golden."
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Mustafa Al-Sawwaf, columnist for the Hamas newspaper Al-Risala, wrote that 'Abbas's statements disqualified him from being the leader of the Palestinian people and advised him to resign: "Israel's disappearance is a necessity [according to] the Koran – that is a truth that we have learned and that we have been teaching since the first intifada, which was the Palestinian people's first step towards ending the usurpation of Palestine by the Jewish gangs... Israel was established by force, and a usurper cannot forever control [the land] he has usurped. The usurpation of [Palestine] occurred in a moment of weakness and disintegration due to the imperialist hegemony over the Arabs, the Palestinians and the Muslims. Therefore, Israel's disappearance [likewise] depends on the disappearance of the circumstances that led to its existence on Palestinian soil... Mr. Mahmoud 'Abbas, Israel was not founded in order to remain, for its presence is an anomaly... We are convinced that its disappearance is necessary. That lies beyond any doubt. It is a disgrace that you call yourself the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people... and a disgrace that you [even] belong to this people."
Al-Sawwaf advised the Palestinian public to remove 'Abbas from office: "Put a stop the contemptuous [behavior] of this man who says, publicly and needlessly, that Israel was founded in order to remain. It is he who should not remain in politics, but should resign or be impeached, so he can turn to some other field that is not political."