JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's president has warned that the Palestinians are liable to launch a new uprising if the Jewish state doesn't do more to try to reach a peace accord, stepping up his criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Jan. 22 elections.
The presidency in Israel is a ceremonial position and presidents generally refrain from political statements. But this was the second time in less than two weeks that President Shimon Peres' criticism of Netanyahu's approach to the Palestinians has found an international platform.
"If there is no diplomatic decision, the Palestinians will go back to terror. Knives, mines, suicide attacks," Peres was quoted as saying in Wednesday's edition of the New York Times magazine.
"Even if the local inhabitants do not want to resume the violence, they will be under the pressure of the Arab world," he said, adding that most of the world is likely to support the Palestinians, not Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that as long as he is in charge in the West Bank, he will not permit a repeat of the armed uprising against Israel that erupted in 2000 and triggered harsh Israeli retaliation.
However, Israeli-Palestinian talks have been frozen for four years, with Netanyahu and Abbas unable to agree on the terms for renewing them, and Abbas' self-rule government is mired in a deep financial crisis. Some fear that the general malaise could provide fertile ground for a new Palestinian revolt.
In the Palestinian refugee camp of Balata, more than 30 masked men armed with assault rifles paraded in the streets Thursday. The gunmen, with links to Abbas' Fatah movement, protested against repeated attempts by Palestinian security forces to disarm them and also demanded government jobs.
Abbas has largely managed to get vigilante gunmen off the streets, but Thursday's weapons display was another sign of growing discontent