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
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system