President Shimon Peres's comments that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is a partner for peace hurt Israel's public diplomacy efforts, Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said on Monday.
Edelstein told Arutz Sheva that it is now clear that the Oslo Accords were a nightmare, adding that the focus of the storm around Peres's comments should not be whether the president should express a personal opinion during an election period but rather how his remarks affect Israel's public diplomacy.
"We spit blood while the Palestinians - sometimes successfully - try to convince leaders in Europe and North America that they are ready for peace but evil Netanyahu refuses because he is a rightist," said Edelstein. "We painstakingly break apart this approach, or at least manage to sow doubts, and here comes the president and says that Abbas is a partner, taking our efforts several steps backward."
He described a possible scenario in which a public diplomacy official tries to explain Israel's position regarding the right to peace while maintaining Israel's security to a minister from abroad, and the minister asks him whether he should believe the minister in charge of public diplomacy efforts or the president.
Edelstein also noted some of the public speeches given by Abbas in which he said that IDF soldiers are murderers and that the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria are a battalion of fighters sent by the Government of Israel to kill Palestinian Authority Arabs.
In a speech he gave Sunday, Peres said that Israel had “no choice” but to pursue the “two state solution with Abbas, because he is the only Palestinian leader who agrees with many of the basic things Israel seeks in a settlement.”
Peres added that a “final status settlement with the Palestinians must be completed without delay. There is clear majority among Israelis for the two state solution. I know Abu Mazen for 30 years. We do not support every word he has said and we have some criticism, but I know the reality, and the reality is that Abu Mazen is the one and only Arab leader who has said that he is in favor of peace and against terror,” Peres said.
Minister Gilad Erdan later said that once again, Peres is interfering in diplomatic matters when he knows very well that it is not appropriate for him to do so, in his role of what is supposed to be a non-partisan President.
The left and right political wings later traded jabs over Peres's remarks. Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz explained that Peres – who is also from Kadima – "said what the nations wants – two states for two peoples."
MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) said that "the Likud's wild attack against the country's president, one of the symbols of the state of Israel, is aggressive and despicable."
Speaking at conference of industrialists in Tel Aviv, she added, "Even the pressure Likud is under, following its decline in the polls, does not make it legitimate to harm the institute of the presidency. Saying that Peres encourages denunciation of Israel in the world is low. Peres is in the trenches, blocking attacks on Israel, and he is its best ambassador."
MK Michael Ben Ari of Otzma Leyisrael (Power to Israel) said that "Peres forgot that he was supposed to represent the entire nation and is not running for election in another failed Labor campaign. In the next elections, the nation will speak its mind against a Palestinian state, and is time that Peres will understand and internalize that this is the will of the people."