Bibi: Won't honor peace deal if elected

Likud leader says he won't carry out any peace deal Olmert signs; next election will be peace referendum.

olmert cabinet 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
olmert cabinet 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu has said if he is elected prime minister, he won't carry out any peace deal with the Palestinians reached by current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a newspaper reported Thursday. Netanyahu told the Makor Rishon daily that he would regard the election as a referendum on any such accord. If Olmert doesn't win, "then you cannot cynically and manipulatively force upon the people a move they do not want," Netanyahu said. Polls show that if elections were held today, Netanyahu would handily beat both Olmert and the Labor Party's chairman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Earlier Olmert had hinted at his strategy in the event of a future election by suggesting that a merger between the Knesset's two largest factions, Kadima and Labor, would be possible, the Israeli daily, Ma'ariv reported on Thursday. In excerpts from the interview, Olmert said he did "not rule out" such unification. On Saturday a Labor official said that such a merger was being negotiated, with the aim of blocking Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu from becoming Israel's next prime minister. Olmert also spoke of the Iranian threat, saying he did not believe Iran would succeed in its nuclear program. "I can tell the Israeli people on the eve of Pessah...that to the best of my understanding, based on what I know and assess, I believe the effort by the international community - which includes any relevant means - will succeed, and Iran will not become a nuclear power." "The Iranian threat is not just to Israel, but to all Western civilization," Olmert added. "When the president of a nation such as Iran announces publicly that Israel should be wiped off the map or be transferred to Alaska or Germany, it represents - besides foolishness - a direct threat." The prime minister also criticized comments made by National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer earlier this month, that "an Iranian attack will prompt a severe reaction from Israel, which will destroy the Iranian nation." Alluding to those remarks, Olmert said that there was an intense international effort to stop Iran's nuclear program, but while "Israel is an important part of this effort [it] is not spearheading it, and so should not make threats such as those I heard recently, to destroy or not to destroy the Iranian nation." Asked, in view of the continuing attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip, whether the disengagement had been a mistake, Olmert answered: "Of course not. Would you like us to have stayed in Gaza? Does anyone want us to go back to Gaza? We should not be there. I want to see [Netanyahu] say now that we should go back to Gaza." Meanwhile, in an interview with Yediot Aharonot, Olmert said that Israel and Syria have been exchanging messages to clarify expectations of any future peace treaty. "They know what we want from them, and I know full well what they want from us," Olmert said. He did not disclose the content of the messages or provide other details about the contacts. In contrast, however, Syrian President Bashar Assad said Thursday that Damascus sees war with Israel as a real possibility, and is preparing for such an event. Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported Assad as saying that whilst war was not a preferable option, "if Israel declares war on Lebanon and Syria or if America declares war on Iran," his country will be prepared. Rebecca Anna Stoil and AP contributed to this report.