Israeli PM blames peace stalemate on Palestinian weakness
Israel's outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday said that weakness on the Palestinians side was the only factor blocking the two neighbors from reaching a peace deal.
Stressing that his government had "gone further in the peace negotiations than any previous government," Olmert told a weekly cabinet meeting that the Palestinian leadership was to blame for the impasse on the decades-long struggle for peace, Xinhua reported.
"We have yet to reach an agreement due only to their weakness, lack of courage and lack of desire to resolve the conflict. Everything else is just excuses and efforts to derail the talks," Olmert was quoted by local daily Ha'aretz as saying.
Meanwhile, the premier, who is expected to leave office in just a few weeks, voiced hope that the two sides would resolve the intractable issues in the near future. "I have no doubt that the negotiations I've held with the Palestinian National Authority ( PNA) will result in a peace accord," he said.
"But we'll have to make dramatic concessions in order to reach a point of signing an agreement," he added.
Olmert's criticism of the Palestinian leadership mirrored the stance of many other Israeli officials, while Palestinian officials have long been arguing that Israel's continued settlement expansion in the West Bank was the main impediment to the peace process.
The current government will very likely be replaced by one led by Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the center-right Likud party, who is trying to piece together a coalition before the April 3 deadline.
The prime minister-designate might form a narrow government with his rightist allies, which would augur ill for the peace efforts as right-wing parties traditionally hold hardline stances on the peace track.
However, Netanyahu is still trying to bring the centrist Kadima party on board for a possible broad coalition. Should he succeed, such a makeup is expected to offer a brighter picture for the peace process.