Likud MKs: Peres should stay out of Iran business

Opposition politicians defend president's right to take a stand following his statement that Israel can't attack Iran alone.

August 17, 2012 16:51
3 minute read.
President Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres 370. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Likud MKs railed against President Shimon Peres over the weekend, saying he overstepped boundaries by telling the media Israel cannot attack Iran alone.

Other politicians defended the president’s right to express his opinion.

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Though the Prime Minister’s Office preferred to focus on the success of the 1981 attack on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, several Likud lawmakers slammed the president for his comments.

“It is too bad that the president has gone back to being the Shimon Peres we all know from the Oslo Accords and is telling us, once again, to gamble away citizens’ security and trust that everything will be fine,” coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said.

If former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had not listened to Peres, Elkin said, Gaza would not be terrorist headquarters, threatening the South. “We cannot give up our national security for hugs and medals overseas,” he quipped.

MK Yariv Levin (Likud), chairman of the Knesset House Committee, called Peres’s statements in a Thursday night interview with Channel 2 an irresponsible mistake.

“He who led the Oslo process, which brought more than 1,000 victims, and opposed bombing the reactor in Iraq should avoid making more mistakes,” Levin said. “The president must fulfill his ceremonial job and leave critical decisions to the elected leadership, as in a civilized, democratic country.”

“Peres is the same Peres: Left-wing, defeatist and subversive,” MK Miri Regev (Likud) said.

Regev plans to check the possibility of cutting short Peres’s tenure as president (his seven-year term ends in July 2014).

According to Basic Law: The President, the Knesset can remove a president from office if at least 20 MKs submit a complaint to the House Committee, which must be approved by three-fourths of the committee’s members before being brought to a plenum vote. Ninety MKs would then have to vote in favor of the president’s removal.

“No president in the world would back the president of another country,” Regev added, in reference to Peres’s statements that he trusts the US will act against Iran.

Former president Yitzhak Navon defended Peres, saying he would have behaved the same way.

“It is clear to Peres, as it was clear to me, that it is not his job to intervene in government decisions, but there are situations in which it is necessary to say what you believe – even if you are president,” Navon said.

The fifth president recounted that during his tenure (1978-1982), he voiced his opposition to government policies “when I felt it was my responsibility as a human, like in the case of [the 1982 massacre in] Sabra and Shatila, in which I publicly called for an inquiry led by a judge, against prime minister Menachem Begin’s wishes.”

According to Navon, Peres must have felt that this is a “fateful time”and that he must have an influence on events.

MK Isaac Herzog (Labor), whose father, Chaim Herzog, was the sixth president of the state, called the Likud’s reaction to Peres’ statements hypocritical. “In the past, Peres made statements that help [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu,” Herzog said. “The Prime Minister’s Office puts down any criticism and anyone that disagrees with him.”

The Labor legislator pointed out that most presidents reach the role after years in politics. Although they are supposed to be above the system and not take a stance on issues, there are occasional exceptions, he said. “There are times when a man’s conscience tells him to take a stand, and this is one of them,” Herzog said. “Iran is a complex issue. Peres has a lot of knowledge on the matter, and is respected internationally.

He spoke carefully, and in good taste.”

Herzog said he agreed with what Peres said, adding that the constant public statements on the matter from Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak hurt their partnership with the US.

Former minister Haim Ramon, who is close to Peres, also backed the president’s statements, telling Army Radio: “He sees that a disaster is going to happen, and he cannot stand and watch.

“Sometimes, the president’s job is to prevent such disasters. Especially when it is a president that Prime Minister Netanyahu allowed to be politically involved,” Ramon said. “Netanyahu cannot ask Peres to be involved in diplomacy only when it is comfortable for him.”

According to MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), “the attempts [by the Prime Minister’s Office] to silence the president are ridiculous.

“The president is speaking responsibly and with the authority of the ‘tribal elder.’ We should listen to the clear, measured voice of the president,” Shai said.

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