(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
"Arabs do not respect a weak prime minister," opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu said Thursday following the Annapolis summit, which he described as "a failure."
He said there was "a virtual element" to the conference. "It was as if we were talking peace with a courageous partner but (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud) Abbas has difficulty ruling his own mukata," Netanyahu told Army Radio.
Netanyahu went on to say that the PA president had not stepped down from any of his demands, adding that "he even wants to join Gaza and the West Bank through the Negev."
The opposition leader said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had made concessions "before Annapolis, during Annapolis and after Annapolis," referring to the supply of armored vehicles to PA forces, to Olmert's refusal to demand that Palestinians stop terror and incitement before negotiations begin, and to the prime minister's comments earlier Thursday that Israel would be "finished" if a two-state solution was not reached.
Olmert made the latter comment in an interview with Haaretz, saying that the alternative to the creation of a Palestinian state is a South African-style apartheid struggle.
"The day will come when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights," the prime minister had said. "As soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished."
Referring to the interview, Netanyahu said: "Israel is not finished. It continues and will continue to exist. Reconciliation will not come from a position of weakness; a position of: 'I will accept all your demands or I will disappear into the sea.'"
He said this was not the way to achieve peace, adding that "Arabs don't respect a weak prime minister."
"Tell me one thing we gained at Annapolis?" Netanyahu continued. "We allowed the Palestinians to avoid fighting terror, a condition set in the Road Map. Abbas now doesn't need to do anything. This is the opposite of what is required for peace and security."
Regarding contacts with Syria, Netanyahu said it was acceptable to talk but it "depends on what is being said," asserting that Israel must demand that Syria halt weapons smuggling to Hizbullah and stop allowing Khaled Mashaal and other Hamas leaders to reside in the country. "It is not embarrassing to demand things from Arabs," he added.
Concerning coalition members Shas and Israel Beiteinu, Netanyahu said: "They said they would leave the government when core issues are raised, so this is what the public expects. They tell me that nothing has happened yet, but I disagree."
The opposition leader warned that due to now-inflated Palestinian optimism created at Annapolis there was a risk of a third intifada breaking out when the Palestinians don't receive what they were now expecting.
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