Israel's new govt will continue peace: president

Israel Materials 29 March 2009 13:54 (UTC +04:00)

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, reported Alarabiya.

"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.

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.

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.

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.