Peres: Peace deal needs public approval

President says opposition must present alternative to negotiations, not just criticize them.

Peres 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Peres 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The government should bring its plan for a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians to the people for their approval, President Shimon Peres told the Herzliya Conference Sunday night in what seemed like a call for elections before an agreement with the Palestinians was signed. "In my opinion, the government conducting the negotiations should formulate its position, and bring it to the decision of the people," Peres said at the gala opening of the conference in the Knesset. "This will allow the people to truly choose. And this is the same for the opposition. It is not enough to criticize the conducting of negotiations, it needs to present an alternative." Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in an interview earlier this month with The Jerusalem Post, said that he had not decided whether to bring an agreement to the people in the form of a referendum, or to call early elections, which itself would be a referendum on the issue. "It is too early to talk about that now," Olmert said. "It is clear that in the final analysis an agreement needs to reflect the will of the people. The Knesset today reflects the will of the people. There is a decisive majority in this Knesset for a diplomatic process. So we'll see what will be - what kind of agreement we will get to, how, if we will [reach one]. I believe that the decisive majority of Israelis, and a majority in the Knesset, will be able to support an agreement that I will be able to sign." Peres said that while there was a need for a "national decision" on the diplomatic issues, there was a need for unity on security issues. "On the diplomatic argument there is the need to decide," Peres said. "On the security efforts there is a need to link arms." Peres said that the Gaza Strip represented more of a security than political problem. "No one is suggesting going back and settling Gaza," he said. "And there is no disagreement over the need to silence the Kassam fire on Sderot and the communities around Gaza."