Olmert: Abbas reneged on promises

Says PA chairman failed to release Schalit before establishing unity gov't; Noam Schalit blames both Israel and PA.

peres smiles 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
peres smiles 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas does not live up to his commitments, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday, in a strong message before his meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "It is impossible to ignore the fact that the chairman of the PA blatantly breached commitments that he gave Israel, especially the commitment that a national unity government would not be established before Gilad Schalit was released," Olmert said before the cabinet meeting. He said Abbas's commitment was "given to me time and time again, also during the trilateral meeting, and it was also given to leaders of foreign states. These leaders, who heard this clear commitment, wondered how it was possible to break this commitment so blatantly." Unlike remarks made during the heat of a cabinet discussion, the prime minister's comments before the weekly cabinet meeting are carefully scripted and designed to send clear messages. Olmert said a different pattern of behavior was necessary from the PA to "create the right atmosphere that could encourage a fruitful negotiating process." He said Abbas's failure to live up to his commitments regarding the release of Gilad Schalit would not make contacts between him and Abbas easier in the future. Olmert's statements came as Rice has made clear that she intended to discuss "political horizon" issues separately with both Olmert and Abbas. Olmert told the cabinet he was encouraged that the Quartet had remained steadfast in its demand that the PA accept three conditions: recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. "This is certainly a step that we view positively," he said. Following Olmert's remarks, Noam Schalit, Gilad Schalit's father, told Army Radio both the PA and Israel were at fault for failing to free his son. He said that when he first sat down with Olmert, some two weeks after the kidnapping last June, the prime minister had warned him that it might take some time to recover his son. But now, he said, nine months later, there has been "nothing except promises and spin." "As far as getting results, [Olmert] has failed," Schalit said. "It takes two to tango," he added. "There have been a lot of promises by the Palestinians that haven't been kept." Schalit recalled the failed negotiations for IAF navigator Ron Arad, who was shot down over Lebanon in 1986. "We've seen the heavy price the missing navigator's family paid," he said. According to Schalit, the time has come to change the teams in charge of negotiations for his son's release. He stressed that he had nothing personal against anyone, but said the teams working on the problem have not been sufficiently energetic. "It seems like they've gotten tired after so long," he said. "This year we won't celebrate Pessah," Schalit said. "Pessah is about freedom, and we don't have that in our hearts. We want Gilad to return from imprisonment to freedom. It's been nine months, and we're not giving up." Prior to the cabinet meeting, Olmert, at a meeting of the Kadima faction, said he would "fight" to see that Vice Premier Shimon Peres was elected president. He denied allegations that he had withdrawn his support for Peres following Peres's criticism of his handling of the Second Lebanon War in minutes recently made public by the Winograd Committee. Peres, according to the minutes, said the IDF had been unprepared to fight and Israel should not have gone to war last summer. Olmert said he intended to ask the Kadima faction to approve Peres as the party's presidential candidate, and that there was no more "fitting" a candidate. Peres said Sunday he had given frank testimony to the Winograd Committee, thinking that his statements would "stay in the meeting room." He said making the minutes public damaged the state's image. Meanwhile, members of some bereaved families on Sunday sent a letter to MKs imploring them not to elect Peres president. According to the letter, Peres demonstrated "weakness in real time. He could have prevented the Second Lebanon War, but did not put his words into actions," Army Radio reported.