President Shimon Peres made
a surprising statement Wednesday, saying that while he supported the 2005 Gaza pullout,
he now sees himself "as one of the people who were wrong. We should have done things differently."
He spoke at a Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations meeting in Jerusalem.
A subsequent statement made by the President's Office later said that Peres did not mean he was against the disengagement in hindsight, but rather against the way the move was carried out and the lack of political and security coordination with the Palestinian side at the time.
During the speech, Peres maintained ambiguity ahead of the scheduled deliberations
on the candidate best suited to lead Israel's next government.
He stressed that "considering the results of the recent Israeli elections,
the issue is not just who will head the next government or who the will the ministers be, but what Israel's future
policies will be.
"I am not biased towards any selectman, but the person chosen by the people will not be exempt from dealing with the dangers and obstacles ahead."
The president also noted in his speech that Israel is facing new challenges and a new reality: "This is the time to turn a new leaf, especially since this is also a new chapter in world politics.
"Those elected were chosen to serve the future," he said. "I pray that they do so."
Meanwhile, Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and
Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni have
been evaluating their chances of forming a viable coalition: Netanyahu, according to assessment, will enjoy the support of many of the smaller parties and therefore stands to trump Livni, who has only Kadima's 28
mandates in her favor.
reportedly inclined to remain neutral, as a form of "punishment" for Kadima's courtship of Yisrael Beiteinu
as a possible coalition partner. "Kadima has shown its true colors," said Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel.
the Arab parties have voiced a similar sentiments, leaving Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman as
the only unknown factor in the political equation.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report