Palestinians have accused the Palestinian Authority of trying to force Palestinians to “live like the Jews” by allowing Israel to use the West Bank and East Jerusalem as its military bases.
The comments came on the same day that Israel launched a massive aerial assault against the Gaza Strip, which has been under siege since the start of the year, and that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, according to Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups.
“We don, and don’t, want to be the Jews,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said, according a translation by Al Jazeera.
“We don… want to make the Palestinians live like Israelis.”
Abbas’s comments came in a speech in the Westbank city of Ramallah on Wednesday, where he said the Palestinians have to “stand shoulder to shoulder with the Jews and live in peace with them.”
“We are the only people who have the right to our land, our holy places, and to live with them, to live in harmony with them,” Abbas said.
“The time has come for the Palestinian people to stand shoulder to hip with the Israelis, and they must live in their place and have the dignity of their place, in their land and in their holy places.”
Abbas said that Palestinians must also have the “right to live their own life and the right of the Palestinian nation to live according to their own way.”
The Israeli military said it had launched its air campaign against Gaza in response to a rocket attack on its territory by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the rocket that struck the coastal enclave on Sunday.
The Israeli military did not immediately provide a reason for the attack.
“The Palestinians are using the Gaza crisis to build the future of a Palestinian state on their territories, on the lands of the Palestinians and their compatriots,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement.
“They are using this crisis to further their own political ambitions and ambitions to change the borders of the state and create an autonomous Palestinian state in the occupied territories.”
Lieberman said that Hamas had taken “all necessary measures to prevent and defeat” any Israeli attack, including “the use of all means necessary to prevent the return of Palestinian terrorists to the Gaza strip.”
The attack, which Israel said came from Gaza, also killed three Palestinians.
The military said the two attackers were “responsible for the death of three Israelis and one civilian.”
Israel’s offensive has prompted international condemnation, with the United States, France and Germany, among others, demanding that Israel halt the offensive.
The United Nations has also called for a pause in the offensive to allow for the recovery of the missing Israelis.