Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday warned against rushing into a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority, saying that the PA regime in the West Bank could potentially be overthrown and replaced by Hamas following an accord.
Speaking at a bible study group at the Prime Minister's Residence, Netanyahu said: "Any sensible person can understand Hamas is able to replace the Palestinian Authority - before an agreement or after an agreement - as witnessed in Gaza."
In an apparent response to President Shimon Peres's call to renew talks with "partner for peace" -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu said that, as opposed to the "voices that I have heard recently urging me to make concessions and withdraw," he would continue to manage the diplomatic process "responsibly and sagaciously and not in undue haste."
He stated that Israel must avoid allowing a "third Iranian terror base in the heart of the country," stating that peace will only come once security is assured.
Netanyahu added that the Palestinian Authority regime could be shaken at any time, as witnessed in Egypt and Syria.
Peres on Sunday called to embrace the changes in the Middle East, saying that Israel has a choice: to sit passively as things happen around it, or to take the initiative and with courageous steps positively influence events.
Following the president's public rejection of the idea that Abbas is not a viable partner for peace, Likud Beytenu blasted Peres as being disconnected from public opinion.
“It’s very unfortunate that the president chose to express a personal political view that is detached from public opinion when it comes to Abbas, who refuses to make peace,” the party said.
“It is even more unfortunate that the president chose to present a political stance that encourages criticism of Israel in front of foreign ambassadors,” Likud Beytenu said, adding that Netanyahu called several times for Abbas to return to the negotiating table, but Abbas refused and prefers to work against Israel at every opportunity.
“Too bad the president did not explain to the ambassadors how his statements sit with the fact that Abbas did not even criticize the shooting of rockets at Israeli civilians [by Hamas],” Likud Beytenu stated.
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich accused Likud Beytenu of crossing a line and behaving erratically due to concerns over a recent drop in poll numbers.
“Saying that Peres encourages criticism of Israel in the world is low,” she remarked.
Tzipi Livni, head of The Tzipi Livni Party, said that in her view “President Peres behaved responsibly and said the truth."
“This is how someone who thinks Israel is important should behave,” Livni said, calling for Netanyahu to stop his “audacious bullying” of Peres.
The prime minister “did not do one-tenth of what Peres did for Israeli security,” she added.
Lahav Harkov, Greer Fay Cashman and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.