Monday, March 16, 2009

Palestinian FM: Israel on brink of ‘anti-peace’ government

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service (Israel), March 16, 2009

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Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Sunday that Israel is on the verge of forming an “anti-peace” government that will make future Middle East talks impossible.

“It is very clear from what we have heard, and from what we expect, that we are going to see a far-right Israeli government, an anti-peace government,” Malki said at the start of talks with European Union officials in Brussels.

“And if that is the case, all efforts and all expectations for the renewal of negotiations between Israel and Palestine will be totally wasted,” Malki said.

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The foreign minister called on the international community to pile diplomatic pressure on the next Israeli government, saying, “We have to declare that, sadly, there is no partner on the Israeli side to negotiate with.”

His comments came a day after Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadima reopened talks on forming a coalition
government in the aftermath of the close result in the country’s
February 10 parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday lambasted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over his assertion that Israel had been prepared to sign a peace agreement, but was held up the Palestinians’ “weakness and lack of courage.”

“The fact that we haven’t reached [a peace agreement] so far is due to the weakness and lack of courage on the part of the Palestinian leaders,” Olmert told ministers during his last weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “Everything else is just excuses and efforts to derail the talks.”

“We were ready to sign a peace deal but the Palestinians unfortunately did not have the courage to do so,” he said.

Abbas’ aide Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP that Olmert’s assertion was “completely false.”

“The proposals did not include conditions for the creation of an independent Palestinian state on all Palestinian territory occupied in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he said. “Israel did not present a single map and not a single serious position that could lead to a real peace on the base of two states.”

Mere days before the end of his term, Olmert used the platform of the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday morning to present an overview of his administration’s achievements.

Addressing the peace process with the Palestinians, Olmert said that his government had “gone further in the peace negotiations than any previous government.”

He voiced hope that the decades long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would be resolved in the near future, saying “I have no doubt that the negotiations I’ve held with the Palestinian Authority will result in a peace accord.”

“But we’ll have to make dramatic concessions in order to reach a point of signing an agreement,” he remarked.

Olmert also broke down the achievements of his administration to the cabinet ministers, mentioning “two well known military efforts” referring to the 2006 Second Lebanon War and the recent Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

“The event in the north [Lebanon border] brought about an unprecedented achievement of quiet in that region of Israel,” the prime minister declared. “In regard to Gaza, we made an important effort that hasn’t been completed yet and we have yet to achieve the full list of goals that we set out to achieve, but we have brought back to the global awareness the might of the Israel Defense Forces and its power of deterrence.”

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