Labor party furious: Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas "screwed us over", Labor party officials charged after the PA chairman endorsed Kadima's Ehud Olmert in an interview with an Italian newspaper Wednesday.
Labor figures noted the party's leader, Amir Peretz, met with Abbas only days ago and backed him, and "now Abbas said what he said."
The Likud, meanwhile, went on the attack, charging that "even Abbas understands Kadima is more leftist than Labor and Meretz. Likud Spokesman Ronen Moshe said that "Even Abbas, who allowed the formation of a Hamas government…realizes that Ehud Olmert can make far-reaching concessions and hand over territories without anything in return or a Palestinian commitment."
Earlier, Abbas said he endorses Israel's acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in elections this month.
In an interview published Wednesday in Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Abbas said that Olmert's victory would be a positive outcome for the March 28 national balloting. "We'll respect the will of the Israeli people," he told the paper, adding, "I hope Olmert wins."
"I know him well. I believe that with him we could work in a productive way," said Abbas, who is widely known as Abu Mazen.
Olmert took over after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke in January. He heads the Kadima party founded by Sharon, which is a front runner in the election.
'Peres is my old friend'
In the interview, the Palestinian leader also praised elder statesman Shimon Peres, also in Kadima, as "an old friend."
Looking at the recent Palestinian elections, Abbas, a moderate, insisted that if the Hamas militant group wanted to govern, it must recognize Israel and international law. Hamas is poised to form the nextgovernment after sweeping parliamentary elections in January.
The group is sworn to Israel's destruction and refuses to renounce violence. Abbas did not say whether he thought Hamas would abide. "Let's wait and read their platform. It's not clear yet," he said.
Asked if new elections might be called if Hamas does not recognize international law, Abbas said, "I hope (this would happen) at a later stage," without elaborating.
Matter of perspective
Just a week ago, Abbas met with Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz at the Allenby Bridge. Senior Labor sources said that after the meeting, the two agreed that if Peretz would win the elections, negotiations would immediately begin.
Before the meeting, journalists asked Abbas how he felt about recent comments by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who said that the PA chairman was no longer relevant.
"It's all a matter of perspective," Abbas said.
He added in the press conference that he hoped the meeting with Peretz would be the "start of the peace process," adding that after the Israeli elections, he hoped to sit at the negotiations table and renew the peace process.
Abbas welcomed ties between the PA and supportive elements in Israel, and called on all international parties to do everything to return the Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiations table.
Associated Press contributed to the report