Erekat: Report may hurt peace moves

Palestinians: Winograd findings reflect bad Israeli leadership, lack of partner.

saeb erekat 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
saeb erekat 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Senior Palestinian officials said Monday they were worried that an inquiry charging Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with "very severe failures" in handling last summer's war in Lebanon will further complicate delicate Mideast peace efforts by weakening his government. Olmert's support plummeted in the aftermath of the war, and the harsh report sparked new calls for his resignation. The latest blow to Olmert comes at a time when the US is making another push to revive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. Earlier this year, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice extracted promises from Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to meet twice a month and eventually start talking about the outlines of a peace deal. Also, the Arab world last month renewed its peace initiative, which offered Israel full recognition in return for a full withdrawal from lands it occupied in the 1967 Mideast War. The next Abbas-Olmert session was to take place in coming days in the West Bank town of Jericho, but was put off in part because of the Lebanon war report. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said no new date has been set. "We view this as an internal Israeli matter," Erekat said of Monday's report. "We want to continue making peace with the Israeli government. Having said that, we hope that this report and the findings of this report will not further complicate and hinder attempts to revive the peace process." Deputy Prime Minister Azzam al-Ahmed of Abbas's Fatah movement said he expected Olmert's domestic woes to overshadow his dealings with the Palestinians. "The difficulties are expected to increase after the report," said al-Ahmed. "Even before the report, I had pointed out that there is no real Israeli peace partner, because there is no strong government in Israel." Khalil Abu Layla, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said he expected Israeli policy toward the Palestinians to remain constant, regardless of who is in power. "They (Israeli leaders) are all the same in their aggression toward the Palestinians," he said. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Israel "reflects (its) failure onto the Palestinians ... Perhaps the increase in aggression by Israel in the past days, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, comes in the context of Israel's failure."