Israeli President Shimon Peres’s latest endorsement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as a partner for peace has provoked an indignant reaction from the Likud.
In an address on Sunday to 160 diplomats at the annual Foreign Ministry conference just three weeks before elections, Peres lauded Abbas as “the only Arab leader to publicly stand up and say that he is for peace and against terror.”
At the same time, he chided Israeli leaders, urging “a more proactive approach, taking initiative and brave steps on a number of issues, the first of which is completing the peace deal with the Palestinians, and without further delay.”
Peres showered Abbas with praise, saying, “I have known [Mahmoud Abbas] for 30 years; I do not uncritically accept or agree with everything he has ever said or done, but I know the reality in which he works.
“His actions in the way of preventing terror are brave to the point they risk his life. Put yourselves in his shoes and you will come to understand that his acceptance of a solution to the right of return and the acceptance of the fact that he will not return to Tzfas, his city of birth, are important and brave statements. There is little time; this is a feasible option that can be undertaken today,” Peres said.
The Likud rejoinder later on Sunday called it “regrettable that the president chooses to express a political opinion that is detached from the Israeli public’s position regarding Abbas, who refuses to make peace.”
It is “even more regrettable that the president chooses to present [these opinions] in front of foreign diplomats, a political stand that encourages condemnation of Israel in the international community.”
Taking aim at the depiction of Abbas as a fearless peacemaker, the statement noted further: “It is a shame the president did not explain to the foreign diplomats how his comments on Abbas reconcile with the fact [that Abbas] did not even condemn the firing of rockets on Israeli citizens.”
Also at the Foreign Ministry conference, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, denied media reports that he had asked to be relieved of his post.
In response to a question about construction in Yehudah and Shomron, Oren stated that the Americans were not particularly angry about it, The Jerusalem Post reported.