JERUSALEM — Israel is furious at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for meeting Wednesday with a Palestinian woman who infamously lured an Israeli teen to the West Bank in 2001, where he was murdered by Palestinians.
Abbas met Amna Muna in Turkey, along with 10 other former prisoners who were released and banished there as part of a deal that freed an Israeli soldier held captive by Gaza's militant Hamas group.
Muna, a 35-year-old West Bank woman, was serving a life sentence for using an Internet promise of romance to lure 16-year-old Ophir Rahum to the West Bank, where he was killed by waiting militants. Her mother, Samira, insists her daughter never intended for her victim to be killed.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel was disappointed that Abbas chose to meet Muna, whom he called a "terrorist temptress" whose "internet trap led to the brutal murder of an innocent Israeli teen."
"Instead of promoting peace and reconciliation, the Palestinian leadership seems to be putting murderers up on a pedestal," he said. "This (meeting) raises serious questions as to their commitment and their desire to end the (Mideast) conflict."
Abbas adviser Nimer Hamad said it was natural for the Palestinian president to "meet his people wherever they are" and blamed Israel for "searching for a pretext to cover the fact that it is destroying the peace process every day through its settlement activities."
Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub, who accompanied Abbas to Turkey, also defended the meeting.
"We can't he talk to her?" he said, in an interview with Israel Radio. "There are Israeli parliamentarians and army generals who are worse than her."
Israel released Muna along with more than 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners in a swap for Gilad Schalit, an Israeli soldier who was captured by Gaza militants and held in the Gaza Strip for five and a half years. The prisoner release took place in two stages — the first in October and the second on Sunday.
Many of the freed prisoners were serving long sentences in Israeli jails for planning and participating in deadly attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Palestinian society generally reveres the prisoners as freedom fighters.
Peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have been at a standstill for more than three years. Israel says it is willing to start talks without preconditions, while the Palestinians have demanded Israel halt its construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem before resuming peace negotiations.
Also Wednesday, suspected Israeli extremists chopped down about 30 trees in a Palestinian olive grove in the West Bank, the military said, the latest in a rash of attacks on mosques, Muslim cemeteries and Israeli military bases.
The words "price tag" were sprayed nearby, a term used by extremist Israeli settlers to denote retribution for government operations against illegally-built settlement homes.