Ramon claims to be victim of PM's sting

Kadima MK alleges PMO planted witness at his meeting with Erekat.

haim ramon hand on head (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haim ramon hand on head
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent a witness to listen in on Kadima council chairman Haim Ramon’s July 8 conversation with Palestinian Authority negotiations chief Saeb Erekat at the capital’s American Colony Hotel, Ramon charged on Sunday.
An unidentified witness to Ramon and Erekat’s conversation, who was said to have sat close by, told Israel Radio anchor Ayala Hasson on Thursday that Ramon had advised Erekat not to have the Palestinians enter direct talks with Israel.
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Ramon denied this in an interview with Israel Radio’s Yaron Deckel on Sunday and pointed fingers at Netanyahu, who told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee last Monday that politicians on the Left were “systematically sabotaging the start of talks with the Palestinians.”
When MKs asked Netanyahu whom he was referring to, he joked he could only tell the committee’s intelligence subcommittee.
“What is [the anonymous witness] afraid of?” Ramon asked. “It might be, and there are rumors that attest to this, that he is connected directly or indirectly to the Prime Minister’s Office...
[Netanyahu] himself said there are Israelis who are harming the diplomatic process. Using sensitive intelligence information to try to get a political advantage is a crime.”
Ramon said that two of the witness’s statements harmed his credibility. The first was his claim that President Shimon Peres had sent Ramon to harm the diplomatic process. The second was his report that former Balad MK Azmi Bishara, who is wanted in Israel for helping Hamas during the Second Lebanon War, called Erekat during the conversation with Ramon.
“Everyone knows Peres would never harm peace and that the Palestinian Authority’s leadership detests Bishara,” Ramon said.
When asked whether he indeed advised Erekat not to enter talks, Ramon responded that he supported direct talks on the issues of borders and security, but not yet on more sensitive issues like Jerusalem and refugees.
He claimed to have said the same things in private talks with Palestinian leaders and open interviews on the radio.
“I told Erekat to negotiate,” Ramon said. “But I said that if Netanyahu doesn’t adopt any [historical] terms of reference, nothing will come out of these talks.
Netanyahu wants to keep the status quo while putting on a show. He doesn’t intend to negotiate seriously with the Palestinians.”
The Likud responded by accusing Ramon of “stooping to a new low in chutzpa and political undermining,” and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni of complacency in Ramon’s actions by not condemning or firing him.
They noted that Yediot Aharonot reported in May that Ramon had told American National Security Council Middle East desk head Dan Shapiro not to bother with Netanyahu and to wait for Livni to come to power.
“On one hand Livni, Ramon and Kadima complain that there is no diplomatic process, but on the other Ramon is systematically trying to sabotage the peace process for narrow political gain,” the Likud said.