Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a photograph as he addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (Hatnua) sharply criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans for a regional approach to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Sunday in an interview that will be published in The Jerusalem Post’s Simhat Torah supplement.
Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni has remained silent since Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly last week, but Peretz, her number 2 in Hatnua, left no doubt that he did not like what he heard from the prime minister. He said Netanyahu’s speech was no better than that of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who accused Israel of genocide in the Gaza Strip.
“Both speeches went to extremes that don’t help the cause of negotiations,” Peretz said. “Abbas went too far with his statements that I don’t accept. As former defense minister, I know how many operations are canceled to minimize civilian casualties.”
He then attacked Netanyahu for not reaching out to Abbas in his speech. Without mentioning Abbas by name, Netanyahu said the Palestinian president was guilty of facilitating the war crimes of firing from and at civilian areas and noted his Holocaust-denying dissertation.
“The prime minister has a right to defend the IDF, but it could have been done with more moderate messages,” Peretz said. “No one can delude himself that there can be a regional peace conference without Abbas. Had he called Abbas to a direct meeting, it would have changed the way the entire world viewed Netanyahu’s speech.”
In the address, Netanyahu said there was a “historic opportunity” for Israel and moderate Arab states to transform common interests into a partnership that could build a more secure, peaceful and prosperous Middle East and help facilitate peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Many have long assumed that an Israeli-Palestinian peace can help facilitate a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world,” Netanyahu said. “But these days I think it may work the other way around: Namely that a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world may help facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace. And therefore, to achieve that peace, we must look not only to Jerusalem and Ramallah, but also to Cairo, to Amman, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and elsewhere.”
Peretz said that in the next Knesset session, which begins October 27 and ends in March, Hatnua will determine its impact on the coalition and decide based on that and other factors whether to stay in the coalition or go.
“There is a big question of whether negotiations will start again or not,” he said. “Hatnua is a serious faction. We won’t decide from the gut.”