Sharon's right-hand man attacks Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister accused of wasting opportunity for peace with Palestinians

The former top aide in Ariel Sharon's administration has blasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for squandering an opportunity to make peace with the Palestinians, slamming a policy to marginalise the Palestinian Authority as both "dangerous and stupid".

The attack by Dov Weissglas, Israel's most influential political advisor during the Second Intifada, is all the more powerful coming from the man most closely attuned to the innermost political thoughts of Mr Sharon, the hardliner who was prepared to make difficult concessions before he suffered a massive stroke in 2006.

The former aide warned that Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian leader, has been near-fatally weakened by a lopsided prisoner exchange deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit that strengthened the hand of Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza, and said that it was in Israel's own interests not to jettison the best partners for peace that the country has ever had.

Mr Abbas, who has done much to restore the Palestinian cause in the eyes of the international community since the demise of Yasser Arafat seven years ago, is reportedly convinced the prisoner deal was timed to punish him for his drive last month to seek recognition of a Palestinian state in the United Nations.

Whether that was the case or not, Mr Weissglas said there should be a counterbalance to the prisoner exchange. "The present government's policy of weakening the PA [Palestinian Authority], if adopted,  is both stupid and dangerous. I think approaching the UN was a mistake... but I prefer Palestinian resistance in diplomatic measures [to] other modes," he said. "The PA today is something we dreamed of 10 years ago."

Mr Weissglas joined Mr Sharon's government as bureau chief in 2002 during Operation Defensive Shield, the military offensive against the Palestinian uprising. At the same time, Israelis were facing suicide bombers on their own streets. Offering an insight into the man seen as one of the toughest leaders in Israel's history, Mr Weissglas said: "Sharon said he would resume negotiations after only seven days of quiet. Now we have had not seven days, but seven years of quiet."

It was, he said, to the credit of Mr Abbas and his Western-educated Prime Minister, Salaam Fayyad, that they were able to stop the terror and convince Palestinians that "non-violence pays". "A great deal is down to Israel's efforts, but a great deal is also down to Palestinian efforts. In my view, as a graduate of those five horrific years, the present Palestinian government is the best," he said. "I know the efforts they [Mr Abbas and Mr Fayyad] made, how difficult it was to stand up and speak loudly and clearly against terror when it was very unpopular in Palestine."

But, he warned, the current calm is fragile, and a leader who is unable to take "courageous" decisions will end up adopting a "more radical position" and demonstrating "less flexibility", potentially paving the way for renewed violence. "Nobody feels like going back to the old days, but this stability [in the West Bank] is tied together with shoelaces. It's like a leaf: all you need is one blow and it's gone," he said.

It is the Israeli military, fearful that the PA could collapse entirely leaving Israel responsible for West Bank security, that is calling loudest for Mr Netanyahu to bolster the PA, either by releasing prisoners affiliated to Fatah, Mr Abbas's party, or by transferring more territory in the West Bank to Palestinian control.

But the appeals have so far fallen largely on deaf ears, and Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's ultranationalist Foreign Minister, claimed this week that Mr Abbas was the "greatest obstacle" to Middle East peace for trying to undermine Israel internationally in the UN, and that his resignation would be "a blessing".

Profile: Dov Weissglas

A lawyer, Dov Weissglas (here with Ariel Sharon) became friends in 1983 with Israel's hawkish prime minister, representing him in the investigation of his role in the massacres of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon that nearly ended Mr Sharon's career. Nearly 20 years later, Mr Sharon brought Mr Weissglas into his government (2001-06) as bureau chief during the Second Intifada, and he was his right-hand man until Mr Sharon's massive stroke in 2006.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
News
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing