Abbas walks back claim that Israeli rabbis called to poison Palestinian water

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas posing for photographs at the European Parliament in Brussels, June 23, 2016. (Thierry Charlier/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas posing for photographs at the European Parliament in Brussels, June 23, 2016. (Thierry Charlier/AFP/Getty Images)

(JTA) – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas walked back his claim that Israeli rabbis had called for the poisoning of Palestinian water and said he did not intend to offend Jewish people.

“After it has become evident that the alleged statements by a rabbi on poisoning Palestinian wells, which were reported by various media outlets, are baseless, President Mahmoud Abbas has affirmed that he didn’t intend to do harm to Judaism or to offend Jewish people around the world,” his office said in a statement issued last Friday.

In his address a day earlier to the European Parliament in Brussels, which earned a standing ovation from parliament representatives, Abbas alleged that Israeli rabbis called earlier in the week for the poisoning of Palestinian water, a report for which he provided no citation and which echoes medieval anti-Semitic libels. Jewish groups responded by accusing Abbas of spreading blood libels and anti-Semitism.

Friday’s statement also said that Abbas “rejected all claims that accuse him and the Palestinian people of offending the Jewish religion,” and that Abbas also “condemned all accusations of anti-Semitism.”

Earlier in the same day of his European Parliament speech, Abbas refused a meeting with Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, that the parliament’s president had offered to arrange while Abbas and Rivlin were in Brussels.

“Someone who refuses to meet with the president and Prime Minister Netanyahu for direct talks, who propagates a blood libel in the European Parliament, is lying when he says his hand is outstretched in peace,” said a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Israel awaits the day when Abu Mazen stops spreading lies and dealing in incitement. Until then, Israel will continue to defend itself against Palestinian incitement, which motivates terror attacks.”

Abu Mazen is an alternative honorific name for Abbas.

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