Influential Israeli rabbi says Palestinians and their leader should perish

JERUSALEM (AP) — An influential Israeli rabbi known for his vitriolic pronouncements against Arabs says Palestinians and their leader should "perish from this world."

Israel Army Radio quoted Ovadia Yosef Sunday as saying the Palestinians were "evil, bitter enemies of Israel" and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should be struck with a plague. He made the remarks in a Saturday night sermon.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are to resume this week.

The 89-year-old rabbi is a respected religious scholar among Jews of Middle Eastern descent. He is also spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas political movement — part of Israel's coalition government.

Yosef has upset many over the years with declarations against Arabs, secular Jews, liberals, women and gays, among others.