Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo: Amit Magal
Netanyahu: Olmert using Syria talks to distract public
Speaking before Likud faction, opposition leader says he fears prime minister may choose his personal survival over national interest. 'The Right and the Left agree today that the diplomatic process cannot serve as a refuge for politicians in distress,' he notes
Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday slammed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to publicize the talks with Syria at this time.


Speaking before the Likud faction in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said that "both the Right and the Left agree today that the diplomatic process cannot serve as a refuge for politicians in distress.


"The majority of the public understands that the prime minister accelerated the talks with Syria and chose the exact timing to publicize them in order to divert the public's attention from his investigations," he added.


The opposition leader went on to say that "Mr. Olmert, who is up to his neck in investigations, has no mandate to hold critical negotiations on the State's future, as there is a real fear that he would favor his personal survival over the national interest. Ceding the Golan Heights will turn the Golan Heights into an advanced Iranian post."


"If the Syrian foreign minister's remarks that Israel agreed to withdraw from the Golan Heights are true, this is an unprecedented diplomatic and security irresponsibility. This joins the failure of the Second Lebanon War and the failure to prevent the Qassam fire in southern Israel."

Likud faction meeting (Photo: Amit Magal)


Netanyahu repeated his call for early elections. "I urge all the parties, from the Left and from the Right, to return the mandate to the voter and set a date for new elections. Whoever is elected will receive a clear, renewed and clean mandate to run the State's affairs in the face of the challenges of security, economy, education and peace."


'Incapable and incompetent'

Other Likud Knesset members took advantage of the faction meeting in order to slam the prime minister.


"A man who is about to be indicted, who takes envelopes and accepts cash, who send them from here to there, who falls asleep at meetings, spending his days and nights with his lawyers, cannot run the State even if he wanted to and even if he was capable and competent. He was incapable and incompetent from the start," said MK Limor Livnat.


MK Reuven Rivlin noted that "the prime minister has no boundaries, and this is manifested in an issue which is one of Israel's most important national interests. Both the Right and the Left could not believe their ears when the prime minister made his announcement.


"Even if it turns out later that the negotiations were launched a year ago, no one will believe Olmert that this is true, because I can't believe he believes himself."


Speaking on Wednesday, Olmert noted that previous Israeli prime ministers, including Netanyahu, gave Syria a promise to return the Golan Heights.


"The renewal of talks frozen for eight years is a stirring event, but it is a national duty that must be realized," he said. "This is the same conclusion reached by three of my predecessors: the late Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak – each of whom invested efforts in this channel and who were all ready to make far-reaching concessions in order to obtain peace with Syria."


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