Peres Prods Netanyahu on Peacemaking Again

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -

Israel’s President Shimon Peres has warned that the Palestinians are liable to launch a new uprising if the government doesn’t do more to try to reach a peace accord, stepping up his criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ahead of Jan. 22 elections.

The presidency in Israel is a ceremonial position, and presidents generally refrain from political statements. But this was the second time in less than two weeks that Shimon Peres’s criticism of Netanyahu’s approach to the Palestinians has found an international platform.

“If there is no diplomatic decision, the Palestinians will go back to terror: knives, mines, suicide attacks,” Peres was quoted as saying in Wednesday’s edition of The New York Times Magazine.

“Even if the local inhabitants do not want to resume the violence, they will be under the pressure of the Arab world,” he said, adding that most of the world is likely to support the Palestinians, not Israel.

In the Palestinian refugee camp of Balata, more than 30 masked men armed with assault rifles paraded in the streets Thursday. The gunmen, with links to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, protested against repeated attempts by Palestinian security forces to disarm them and also demanded government jobs.

Peres criticized Netanyahu last month at a meeting of foreign ambassadors, calling Abbas a reliable peace partner and saying Israeli diplomacy must change “from an aggressive approach to a moderate approach of dialogue.”

That prompted Netanyahu’s Likud Party to release a statement calling Peres out of touch and Abbas a “peace rejecter.” It said the president’s remarks to a diplomatic audience encouraged international condemnation of Israel.

The prime minister’s office had no comment on Peres’s remarks on Wednesday. But Cabinet minister Yisrael Katz, a close Netanyahu ally, told Israel Radio that Peres was only reinforcing the misperception that Israel is to blame for the deadlock.