PM dismisses Abbas's referendum

"It is meaningless in terms of the broad picture," says Olmert.

olmert good pic 298 88 (photo credit: AP)
olmert good pic 298 88
(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dismissed as meaningless Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' expected call for a referendum on establishing a Palestinian state, Britain's Independent newspaper reported Friday. Olmert travels to Europe Sunday for a visit aimed at drumming up international support for his plan to withdraw from parts of the West Bank and unilaterally draw Israel's borders with the Palestinians. He meets British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on Monday and then flies to Paris for talks with President Jacques Chirac and others. Olmert, sworn in last month, said the plan Abbas wants to put to a vote couldn't be a basis for negotiation, the newspaper said. It released advance excerpts of the interview being published in Saturday's editions. "The referendum is an internal game between one faction and the other," Olmert said. "It is meaningless in terms of the broad picture of chances towards some kind of dialogue between us and the Palestinians. It's meaningless." "Mr. Abbas will not be able to get away by saying I forced a referendum that accepted a program which is far behind the basic principles that the international community (has) defined anyway," he said. Abbas has endorsed the referendum plan as a way to end crippling international sanctions against the Palestinians following the election of Hamas and restart peace talks. He wants voters to endorse a plan that calls for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and implicitly recognizing Israel. Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction, demands changes in the language of the proposal. Israeli officials also have objected to the plan because it endorses the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees to come back to lost properties in Israel and endorses attacks in areas captured in 1967, including the West Bank and east Jerusalem.