Yechimovich Comes to Peres' Defense, Criticizes Netanyahu

Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yechimovich says Netanyahu is "aggressive and rude" for attacking Peres over remarks on Iran.

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Elad Benari,

Labor head Shelly Yechimovich
Labor head Shelly Yechimovich
Flash 90

As government members attacked President Shimon Peres on Thursday over his remarks undercutting the elected government's stance on the Iranian threat, members of the opposition came to his defense.

Labor Party chairwoman MK Shelly Yechimovich, said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's tongue-lashing of Peres is “aggressive and rude, and the fact that he's hiding behind associates does not reduce the severity of his reaction.”

She added that the presidency is the most important and respected institution in the country and that Peres himself is accepted and appreciated by the general public.

“Peres said things that expressed deep concern and responsibility for the status and security of Israel, and Netanyahu should carefully listen to the President and internalize his remarks,” said Yechimovich.

MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) also defended Peres, and was quoted in a Channel 10 News report as having said, “The attempts to shut President Peres’ mouth are ridiculous and pathetic. President Peres is expressing himself out a sense of responsibility and even of authority. It would be appropriate to listen to the clear, measured voice of the President of Israel.”

In an interview with Channel 2 News on Thursday, Peres undermined Israel's aggressive position on the matter of Iran when he said that Israel should not attack Iran alone.

Asked if he trusts President Barack Obama is sincere about his intention of preventing Iran from achieving nuclear weapons, he said: "I am convinced that it is an American interest, I am convinced that (Obama) sees the American interest – he is not saying it just for our benefit. I have no doubt whatsoever in this. In conversations with him, too… And now it is clear to us that we, alone, cannot do this. We can delay… therefore it is clear to us that we need to work together with America; there are questions of coordination and there are questions of timing, but as grave as the danger is – at least this time, we are not in it alone."

“Israel has to depend on itself, but when it depends on itself, that does not mean that it has to give up on its friends,” he added. “When I say 'I have the right to self defense,' that does not mean that I have an obligation to stop talking to everyone! Of course not!”

Sources close to Netanyahu were quoted in two news outlets as saying that "Peres forgot what the role of a president in the state of Israel is."

“Peres forgot that he, too, made at least three cardinal mistakes regarding state security," the sources added. The first mistake, they said, was the Oslo Accord that he thought would create a new Middle East and instead led to more than 1,000 Israel deaths from terror attacks that emanated from the territory he gave the Arabs.

The second mistake, the sources said, was his support for the 2005 Gaza "Disengagement," which he thought would lead to peace and resulted in rocket attacks on southern Israel. His worst miscalculation, they said, was his objection to the 1981 attack on the Iraqi nuclear plant.

Coalition Chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin criticized Peres and said, “It’s too bad that President Shimon Peres is going back to being the old Peres of Oslo and suggesting once again that we gamble with the security of the citizens of the State.

“If Begin had listened to Peres at the time, Saddam Hussein would have attacked us with missiles of another kind entirely during the Gulf War. If Rabin would have listened less to Peres at the time, we would not have gotten a terror base and missiles in Gaza threatening the south and Gush Dan,” he added.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky also responded to Peres’ remarks, reminding that the role of president is a symbolic one in Israel.

“In the State of Israel the division of labor is clear: The president has a symbolic role and the prime minister and the cabinet members are the ones who make the decisions,” said Sharansky in a statement.

While the role of Israel’s President is a purely ceremonial one and not a political one, Peres has been Israel’s most political president to date, and has been accused of seeing himself as a de-facto foreign minister once again, as he was during the late Yitzchak Rabin's term of office when he engineered the disastrous Oslo Accords.

Peres has reportedly met in secret with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in the hopes of advancing his personal agenda of restarting peace negotiations.

A report on Channel 10 this week said that Peres appears to be leading a coalition of government officials, MKs, and public figures who oppose Israeli action against Iran's nuclear program. The report said that he has been spreading his opinion against a strike at every opportunity, including at meetings with foreign dignitaries.

Peres, however, rejected the report on Thursday, telling Channel 10, “I do what I do, my remarks are made openly and I'm not running any campaign. I say what is in my heart in a loud and clear voice.