Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 19:08 pm (KSA) 16:08 pm (GMT)

Israel's new govt will continue peace: Peres

Israeli President Perez sought to reassure the world about the coming govt
Israeli President Perez sought to reassure the world about the coming govt

President Shimon Peres on Sunday sought to reassure the world that Israel's incoming government will continue the peace process, following EU warnings of "consequences" if the new cabinet did not commit to the creation of a Palestinian state and as Egypt said it was not optimistic about the new Israeli government.

"The new government is bound by the decisions of the preceding one," Peres told public radio. "There will be a continuity and the continuation of peace negotiations."

Peres -- Israel's veteran statesman and Nobel peace laureate -- spoke on the eve of his visit to the Czech Republic, which as current president of the European Union last week warned Israel of "consequences" if its new cabinet did not accept the principle of a two-state solution.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said on Saturday that Egypt was not optimistic about the Israeli government which premier-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to unveil next week.

No optimism

 The formation they are speaking of for a new government does not inspire optimism 
Egyptian FM Ahmed Abul Gheit

Abul Gheit's comments to reporters came after Netanyahu's office said the hawkish leader had sought to reassure Cairo after he tapped Avigdor Lieberman to head the foreign ministry in the new administration.

"The formation they are speaking of for a new government does not inspire optimism... we have not heard until now any encouraging commitments at all from people expected to join the upcoming government," Abul Gheit said.

The Israeli government headed by Netanyahu's rightwing Likud party will be sworn in on March 31, a spokeswoman for the Israeli politician said.

Egyptian FM Abul Gheit called on the new Israeli government to declare its intention

Netanyahu, who has until April 3 to form a government after striking a coalition deal with Lieberman and with defense minister Ehud Barak, who heads the center-left Labour party; a deal that could help him avoid friction with Washington over peacemaking with the Palestinians.

Lieberman, head of far right party Yisrael Beitenua, suggested that Israel should bomb Egypt's Aswan Dam in the event of a war and that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should "go to hell" if he does not visit Israel.

Settlements

Building 2,500 homes in Israeli settlements was held up by the legal appeals filed by Palestinians

Abul Gheit called on the new government to "clearly declare ... its intention and capability to stop all settlement building and to dismantle all settlements in the Palestinian people's land."

Israel began constructing settlements in the West Bank shortly after occupying it in the 1967 war with Egypt, Syria and Jordan. There are roughly 450,000 settlers in the West Bank, including in annexed East Jerusalem.

The settlements violate international humanitarian law, which forbids the colonizing of occupied territories with civilians from the occupying power, according to the United Nation's International Court of Justice.

Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had proposed dismantling some settlements in the West Bank while retaining the main settlement blocs that house the majority of settlers.

But Israeli media reported last week that Netanyahu and Lieberman have agreed to expand settlements in an especially contentious part of the West Bank near East Jerusalem.

Palestinian state

Benjamin Netanyahu

In the face of concern by the EU and much of the Arab world about prospects for peace with Netanyahu at the helm, Peres plans to kick off a media campaign after the new government is confirmed to assuage the critics, the Haaretz daily reported.

To that end, he was to travel to the Czech Republic on Monday for a one-day visit, his spokeswoman told AFP.

"The government that will be formed will respect the engagements undertaken by the preceding cabinet," Peres said in Sunday's comments, adding that this also applied to ongoing talks over a prisoner swap with Hamas.

Netanyahu said on Wednesday his government would negotiate peace with the Palestinians, but made no mention of their U.S.-backed quest for statehood.

 The government that will be formed will respect the engagements undertaken by the preceding cabinet 
Israeli President Shimon Perez

He has shied away from declaring support for setting up a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, alongside Israel, focusing instead on his plan to stimulate the Palestinian economy.

But under the coalition deal with Labour, led by Barak, Likud agreed to respect all of Israel's international agreements -- a formula that includes accords envisaging Palestinian statehood.

Abul Gheit welcomed the EU's call on Friday for Israel's prime minister-designate to accept the principle of the creation of a Palestinian state.

The 27-nation EU warned Israel's incoming new government to be led by Netanyahu of unspecified "consequences" if it did not accept the principle of a Palestinian state.

Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, but it ignored the 30th anniversary of the peace deal last week, although its ambassador in Tel Aviv attended a reception held by the Israeli foreign ministry to mark the anniversary.

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