Labor head says conflict with Hamas helping Netanyahu avoid peace talks
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Labor head says conflict with Hamas helping Netanyahu avoid peace talks

On campaign trail, Amir Peretz says PM would react differently if it were West Bank settlement fields being set ablaze rather than land in the south

Newly elected Labor Party leader Amir speaks at a party conference in Tel Aviv on July 9, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Newly elected Labor Party leader Amir speaks at a party conference in Tel Aviv on July 9, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Labor Party leader Amir Peretz said Saturday that Israel’s conflict with the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group was allowing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to avoid peace talks with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

“The equation in which Netanyahu is afraid of defeating Hamas on the one hand and fearing an unbearable diplomatic process on the other — it is clear that the confrontation with Hamas is helping Netanyahu evade the need to start a diplomatic process with Abu Mazen,” Peretz tweeted, using PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s nickname.

“In the coming elections we will change this,” he added.

Peretz, a resident of the rocket-battered city of Sderot, also charged that Netanyahu would react more forcefully to violence against West Bank settlements than he does to attacks from the Gaza Strip on southern Israel.

“If the fields of the settlements would go up in flames like the fields of the [Gaza] periphery and the Negev, Netanyahu would respond differently,” Channel 13 news quoted him saying during a campaign event in the Lakiya regional council.

A military firefighter works to extinguish a blaze caused by an incendiary device from the Gaza Strip in a field in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel on June 27, 2019. (Sha’ar Hanegev regional council)

The Labor chief was referring to ongoing arson attacks from Gaza, which have caused extensive damage to fields and forests in the south since they began last year.

Peretz was elected earlier this month as the head of Labor, which has traditionally advocated holding peace talks with the Palestinians. He previously served as Labor chief from 2005-2007.

Israel has not held negotiations with the PA since a US-led round of talks collapsed in 2014. The Trump administration is expected to roll out its peace proposal after Israeli elections in September, though the PA has already indicated the plan will be dead on arrival amid its ongoing boycott of the White House for its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

The internationally recognized PA has long been at odds with Hamas, which violently ejected it from Gaza in 2007. Numerous reconciliation efforts between the sides have failed to bear fruit.

Since Hamas took over the Strip, Israel has fought three wars with it. They have also engaged in a number of major flareups over the past year following the start of the often violent “March of Return” border protests.

Peretz’s comments came as fears grew another round of violence was imminent after a Hamas member was killed by Israeli troops Thursday in what the army said was a misunderstanding.

Also Saturday, an Egyptian security delegation left Gaza after holding talks with Hamas leaders in a bid to ensure calm.

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