Jerusalem (AFP) - Israel accused the Palestinian president of libelling the Jewish people after he charged Thursday that rabbis had called for Palestinian wells to be poisoned.
"Abu Mazen showed his true face in Brussels," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement, using a familiar Arabic name for president Mahmud Abbas.
During a speech to the European Parliament, Abbas said, in apparently unscripted Arabic remarks, that recently "a number of rabbis in Israel made a clear declaration and asked their government to poison water to kill the Palestinians".
He cited the accusation, without giving any source, as part of an attack against what he said was Israeli incitement against the Palestinians.
Abbas was in Brussels for talks with top EU officials trying to kick-start stalled Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was there at the same time but a bid by European Parliament head Martin Schulz to broker a meeting between them failed "following Abbas's refusal" a spokesman for Rivlin said.
"I find it strange that president Mahmoud Abbas has refused again and again to meet with Israeli leaders," Rivlin himself said in a statement prior to flying home.
"We will not be able to build trust between us if we don't begin to speak directly."
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina denied that any encounter was ever planned.
"There was no appointment or preparation made for a meeting in Brussels between President Mahmoud Abbas and President Reuven Rivlin," he told AFP.
Netanyahu's office said the events in Brussels contradicted Abbas's declared willingness to negotiate an end to the conflict.
"The person who refuses to meet the (Israeli) state president... and disseminates a blood libel in front of the European Parliament, lies when he claims that his hand is outstretched in peace," the statement said.
The accusation that Jews were poisoning the wells of Christians gained traction in 14th century Europe as plague swept across the continent.
Another allegation from the Middle Ages, that Jews murdered Christian children to use their blood for ritual purposes, is the source of the term "blood libel".
The Jerusalem Post newspaper reported Tuesday that the well-poisoning story had resurfaced in a statement by the Palestinian foreign ministry naming a "rabbi Mlad" as authorising contamination of Palestinian water.
The Post and other Israeli media said they had failed to locate any such person or edict.