Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced ostensible peace partner Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday for his participation in an ongoing reconciliation effort with Hamas, saying that the latter group has “no intention of compromising with us; they want to destroy the state.”
“Yesterday we were re-exposed to our enemies’ true face,” Netanyahu said at the opening of his weekly Cabinet meeting, referring to the widely publicized calls for the destruction of Israel by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal at a Saturday rally in Gaza.
“It’s interesting that Abbas has issued no condemnation of the remarks about the destruction of Israel, just as previously he did not condemn the missiles that were fired at Israel [before and during Operation Pillar of Defense]. To my regret, he strives for unity with the same Hamas that is supported by Iran.”
“We want peace but will not repeat the same mistake of a one-sided withdrawal,” Netanyahu said, alluding to the removal of Israeli forces and the dismantling of all settlements in Gaza in 2005. He said the Israeli government wants “real peace with our neighbors” but was “under no illusions” and won’t, this time, “stick our heads in the sand.”
“I have always been astonished at the delusions of others who are prepared to continue this process and call it peace. You would hand over more territory, in this case in Judea and Samaria that controls Israel’s cities, to the same people and the result, of course, will be a Gaza on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, Hadera and Kfar Saba,” said Netanyahu, vowing that his government would not bow to international pressure and risk Israel’s security.
At a Hamas rally in Gaza on Saturday, exiled leader Mashaal, in his first return to the region in decades, made a fiery speech promising to liberate Palestine “from the sea to the river,” and said that Hamas was “not giving up any inch of Palestine. It will remain Islamic and Arab for us and nobody else. Jihad and armed resistance is the only way… We cannot recognize Israel’s legitimacy.”
President Shimon Peres said Sunday that he would still be willing to meet with Mashaal as part of a peace process if there was no other option, Channel 10 reported.
“Khaled Mashaal is not my first choice for dialogue,” Peres said. “He lives in another era of death and blood, but if we have to, I will talk with him.”
Peres added, however, that Mashaal would never enter dialogue with Israel. Hamas is a “terrorist organization which advocates slaughter, refuses to compromise, and aims to keep Gaza’s poor mired in poverty,” he said.
Alluding to the upcoming elections, the president said that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was well-known: two states with secure borders and a demilitarized Palestine.
“The choice for Israeli voters in the next elections is in fact between Gaza and Abbas, who is a serious person who supports a compromise, with no [Palestinian] right of return,” Peres said, calling on all political parties to start thinking about the future, not the past.
Speaking at a business convention Sunday, former prime minister Ehud Olmert accused the Netanyahu government of strengthening Hamas and weakening Abbas, by refusing to negotiate with the moderate leader.
Olmert warned that the government actions would lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and that Israel was not far from witnessing a Palestinian uprising.