Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has criticised his successor, Benjamin Netanyahu, for not negotiating with Mahmoud Abbas, an Israeli newspaper reported on Sunday. Speaking at a business convention, Olmert described Abbas as a "moderate Palestinian leader" and accused the Netanyahu government of "strengthening Hamas and weakening Abbas" by refusing to negotiate with him.
Warning of the collapse of the Palestinian Authority as a result of this policy, Olmert said: "The [Israeli] government actions could lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority; Israel is not far from witnessing a Palestinian uprising."
Meanwhile, during his weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu denounced Abbas's participation in efforts for reconciliation with Hamas. "Hamas has no intention of compromising with us; they want to destroy the state," he bemoaned, pointing out that Abbas has not issued any condemnation of Khalid Meshaal's comments in Gaza at the weekend when he said that he wasn't prepared to give up "even an inch" of historic Palestine.
"He [Abbas] did not condemn the missiles that were fired at Israel," continued the Israeli Prime Minister. "To my regret, he strives for unity with the same Hamas that is supported by Iran."
In defiance of the international community regarding the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, Netanyahu said that his government "would not bow to international pressure" on the issue. He refused to describe handing back occupied Palestinian land as a peaceful step forward.
"We want peace but will not repeat the same mistake of a one-sided withdrawal," he said, referring to the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the dismantling of settlements there in 2005. "We want real peace with our neighbours, but will not, this time, stick our heads in the sand," he added.
Netanyahu told his cabinet that dismantling Israeli settlements in the West Bank would bring more Israeli cities within range of Palestinian rockets.
"I have always been astonished at the delusions of others who are prepared to continue this process and call it peace. You would hand over more territory, in this case in Judea and Samaria, that controls Israel's cities, to the same people and the result, of course, will be a Gaza on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, Hadera and Kfar Saba," he insisted.
Even though Khaled Meshaal told the rally to mark the 25th anniversary of the first Intifada and the founding of Hamas on Saturday that the only way to liberate occupied Palestine is through resistance, Israeli president Shimon Peres told Israeli TV channel 10 that he would still be willing to meet with the Hamas leader as part of a peace process if there was no other option. "However, Khalid Meshaal is not my first choice for dialogue," said Peres.