The Likud on Sunday lashed out against President Shimon Peres’s call for renewed negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, saying the elder statement’s support for a two-state solution was divorced from public opinion.
“It’s unfortunate the president chose to express a personal political opinion disconnected from the Israeli public’s stance,” Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said.
Earlier on Sunday, Peres expressed support for PA President Mahmoud Abbas as a partner for peace and called for renewed talks to reach a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Erdan decried Peres’s statement, which he made at a meeting of Israeli ambassadors, as unfortunate, for he “chose to present the ambassadors with a political view that encouraged condemnations of Israel in the international arena.”
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called upon Abbas to return to the negotiation table dozens of times” and was active in his attempt to make talks happen, Erdan said. He charged that Abbas, “who refused even [former prime minister ] Ehud Olmert’s proposals, would rather join Hamas and act against Israel in any possible arena,” noting that Abbas “didn’t even condemn the firing of rockets at Israel.”
Netanyahu responded far less dramatically, saying that “there is a range of opinions” and noting that he met with Peres from time to time to discuss the issue.
Earlier on Sunday Peres said, “You can reach an agreement with Abbas… one of the only leaders in the Arab world to say publicly and boldly that he supports peace and a demilitarized state, and opposes terrorism.”
The dovish elder statesman said that he has known Abbas for 30 years and “no one” could change his mind about the Palestinian leader, while admitting that the Palestinian leader has been highly critical of Israel.
“We don’t need to hug and praise him,” he said.
Center-left politicians came to Peres’s defense, voicing their support of a two-state solution and negotiated peace with the Palestinians.
“Shimon Peres, the president of Israel, acted responsibly and told the public the truth about Israel’s situation and status,” Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni said. “That is how anyone who regards Israel as important should act.” She called on Netanyahu to curb the Likud’s criticism of the president’s statements.
Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid denounced “the government’s ignorance of the deteriorating political situation in Israel,” saying its current policy “will only pass on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to our children.”
“There is no solution other than two states for two nations,” he asserted.
Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich called the Likud party’s outburst “aggressive and despicable” and defended Peres as “Israel’s greatest ambassador.”
High-level talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been all-but frozen in the life-span of the outgoing Netanyahu government.
Israel has called for the Palestinians to come to the table with no preconditions, while Ramallah maintains that settlement construction must stop before it will negotiate.
Peres said “there is no alternative” to a two-state solution. He added there was a clear Israeli majority for a Palestinian state existing side by side with Israel.
“The role of diplomacy is to make friends, not to deceive enemies,” Peres told the crowd of assembled ambassadors, alluding to the conduct of former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who was indicted on fraud and breach of trust charges Sunday. “In diplomacy, it’s always better to be a lion in the skin of a sheep, than a sheep with a lion’s roar that scares the whole world.”