President Shimon Peres
appears undeterred by the row caused by his remarks on the peace process. A day after he complimented
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,
sparking criticism within the Likud Beiteinu party, the president further commented on Israel's
relations with the Palestinian Authority.
"People ask about Hamas,
why aren't we talking with Hamas? There is nothing wrong with that as long as we get an answer from them," Peres said Monday.
He clarified that in order for talks with Hamas to be possible, the Palestinian organization must accept the International Quartet's conditions.
Addressing the leaders of Christian sects ahead of the New Year, the Israeli president made it clear that "Hamas and Gaza must decide what they want – war or peace. Israel will be glad to see them make achievements and build. We have no satisfaction seeing citizens in Gaza suffering. If they don't fire – they won't be fired on."
According to Peres, "We are willing to talk to Hamas, but they aren't. They must accept the Quartet conditions. These are not conditions set by us, but by the international community. They must decide if they want peace or fire."
Commenting on the funds transferred to the Palestinian from the Qatari government, the president stated that "they must use the money they got from Qatar for construction rather than rockets. This is most people's opinion."
Peres is among Israeli officials who firmly object to peace talks with Hamas as long as they fail to recognize the State of Israel.
"I believe the Israelis, like the Arabs, will want to see an end to the conflict," the president added. "This is not just a desire. It must be achieved, and we have to work to achieve it."
On Sunday, Peres said at the Foreign Ministry's annual conference, "There is a clear majority for the principle of two-states for two peoples," complimenting Abbas as being "the only Arab leader who publically stands up and says that he is for peace and against terror."
The president's remarks stirred heated debate among Israeli politicians.
Commenting on Peres' announcement, Environment Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud)
issued a statement declaring that "it is unfortunate that the president chose to present a political stance that encourages the condemnation of Israel by the international community."
Politicians from the centrist and leftist bloc rushed to Peres' defense. "The Likud's attack on the president… is aggressive and despicable," said Labor
Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich.
"Saying that Peres was encouraging the condemnation of Israel in the world is appalling. Peres is responsible for thwarting attacks on Israel and is its best ambassador."
Hatnua Chairwoman Tzipi Livni
also backed the president's remarks, saying that "President Peres acted responsibly in telling the public the truth about Israel's status. The truth is that Israel is already an isolated country, and with no diplomatic progress it only becomes more isolated."