TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is too weak to take the necessary steps for peace with Syria, said Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal during a visit to Iran Saturday.
Mashaal’s comments came during a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Manochehr Mottaki, in response to a question about Wednesday’s announcement that Israel and Syria had restarted direct peace negotiations.
“There is great skepticism concerning the seriousness (of Israel) to return the Golan,” he said, referring to strategic plateau captured by Israel in 1967. “It’s maneuvering and playing with all the (negotiating) tracks, it’s a well known game and besides, Olmert’s weakness will not allow him to take this step.”
A corruption probe and calls for Olmert’s resignation have raised doubts about his ability to conclude a peace deal with the Palestinians by a year-end target, or pursue recently confirmed peace talks with Syria.
Israel has asked Syria to cut its ties with Hamas and Iran as a condition for any peace agreement, which Damascus on Saturday rejected.
Mashaal, who resides in Damascus, was careful not to criticize Syria’s decision to restart negotiations with Israel and said he was sure the renewed talks would not come at the expense of the Palestinian track.
The Hamas leader also renewed his condemnation of the Israeli-led blockade of blockade of Gaza, imposed after Hamas overran the coastal territory a year ago, and he once again threatened to forcibly reopen the Rafah crossing to Egypt.
“If the international community and the concerned parties don’t take the initiative and break the siege, we will break it ourselves. We insist on opening all crossings, particularly Rafah.”
In January, Hamas militants blew holes in the wall separating Gaza from Egypt, sending a flood of desperate Palestinians across the border to buy supplies.
Egypt resealed the border 12 days later and has warned Hamas against a repeat performance.