Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert leveled harsh criticism at his successor Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday, saying that he had taken steps to weaken the Palestinian Authority and bolster Hamas at the PA's expense.
The statement was given following Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' controversial interview with Channel 2 News last week.
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"Unfortunately, since the change of government in Israel, the talks with the Palestinians have been suspended and great efforts have been made to prove to the Israeli public that 'there's no Palestinian partner,'" Olmert's statement said.
"Also, the Israeli government has taken a series of steps that have made Hamas stronger and made the PA, headed by Abbas, weaker. But the PA promotes nonviolence and the peace talks."
Olmert and Abbas (Photo: Reuters)
"This policy, towards the only possible partner for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is irresponsible," Olmert's statement continued, "and it's detrimental to the State of Israel's vital interests.
"The interviews given by the Palestinian president over the past few days should prove to the Israeli public that we do have someone to talk to and we can negotiate to try and end this prolonged blood feud between our peoples."
Olmert added that Abbas' statements to Channel 2 "Are similar to things said behind closed doors and they are known to those who were privy to the talks at the time, as well as to the currents heads of state in Israel."
According to the former prime minister, during his negotiations with Abbas "It was agreed that the question of the refugees would be addressed within the framework of the Arab Initiative and that the Palestinians would not try to change Israel's character by realizing the right of return.
"To clarify, it was discussed – but not finalized – that several thousands cases will be reviewed on humanitarian grounds, should such petitions be made, and only for a limited period of time."
The Likud issued the following statement in response: "Olmert was the one during whose term in office Hamas came to power. Olmert was the one who promised that the Gaza pullout will bring security to the south's residents. Once olmert left power Israel's security has improved."
Education Minister Gideon Saar added that "Olmert is acting like an advocate for the Palestinian Authority. His attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is outrageous.
"Mr. Olmert could not spare one word of criticism for the PA, which for four years has deliberately refrained from negotiating with Israel and has set one precondition after the next for the peace talks."
Abbas, Saar continued, "Made it clear in the interview that the far reaching offers he got from Olmert for a withdrawal based on the 1967 line was only the beginning as far as he was concerned."
Itamar Eichner is a Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent
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