Likud MKs railed against President Shimon Peres over the weekend, saying he
overstepped boundaries by telling the media Israel cannot attack Iran
Other politicians defended the president’s right to express his
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)
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
MK Yariv Levin (Likud), chairman of the Knesset House Committee,
called Peres’s statements in a Thursday night interview with Channel 2 an
“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,
“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.
president Yitzhak Navon defended Peres, saying he would have behaved the same
“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
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
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
He spoke carefully, and in good
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
“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.