olmert abbas euromed 298.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Although Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz became the first Israeli official to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas since the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections, Abbas announced his endorsement of rival candidate and Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera quoted Abbas as saying he was rooting for Olmert in Israel's elections.
"We'll respect the will of the Israeli people, but I hope Olmert wins," Abbas told the paper. "I know him well. I believe that with him we could work in a productive way."
Labor officials were quick to condemn the endorsement, although Peretz's official spokesmen denied that the Labor chairman was angered by the comments.
One high-ranking Labor official said that Peretz ended Israel's isolation of the PA through his meeting with Abbas last week. "Is this what we get in return?" the official asked.
Olmert told The Jerusalem Post that Abbas's endorsement might hurt him politically because it would take supporters away on the Right and that Abbas was not trying to help him when he made the comments.
Likud Party leader Binyamin Netanyahu said he was not surprised that Abbas support Olmert. "I want to remind you that these elections will be decided by Israeli citizens and not by foreigners and certainly not by the Palestinians."
Abbas prefers Olmert because he believes a government led by Olmert would be in the best interest of the Palestinians, Netanyahu said on Wednesday at Likud Party headquarters. Abbas knows that Olmert won't stand firm on terror and would make concessions while asking little in return.
Abbas doesn't want the Likud, which would stand firm against terror and for the best interest of Israel, said Netanyahu. What's important is that Israelis identify with the Likud, he said.
Following the backlash Wednesday, Abbas's office claimed he had been misquoted, and that his remarks referred to results predicted by the polls and not to his personal preferences.
Meanwhile, the Labor Party announced Wednesday it would only join a coalition that pledged to evacuate the 105 illegal outposts. Those outposts were outlined by the Sasson Report, which marked its one year anniversary Wednesday.
If elected prime minister, Peretz said he would complete the evacuation of the outposts within one year.
"Whoever wants to be in a coalition with us will have to take this into consideration. We're talking about the evacuation of 1,500 people, most of whom disregard the law and symbols of the rule of law, such as the army and police. The evacuation of illegal outposts is not negotiable, but we will certainly discuss ways of evacuation," Peretz said.
At the press conference, Peretz and MK Ophir Pines-Paz presented a detailed plan on halting the phenomenon of illegal outposts.
Peretz criticized Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has refrained from implementing recommendations in the Sasson Report, despite a government decision to do so. "He can implement these things now, there is no need to wait until a new government is formed. Every day, it gets worse," Peretz said.
AP contributed to this report.