Netanyahu strikes back at Israeli president

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Striking back after being blamed for faltering Mideast peace, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Israeli president Tuesday of siding with Arabs and Israel’s opposition in a ploy to oust the government.
President Ezer Weizman caused a major political incident Monday when he went on national television to blame Netanyahu for the deadlock in peace negotiations with the Palestinians, saying it was time to call early elections.
Netanyahu turned on his accuser Tuesday, saying Weizman had breached the presidential role. “The fact is that the president, to my sorrow, took a stand with the left to actually get rid of the current elected government,” he told Israel TV.
Weizman’s comments had “strengthened and hardened the Arab position,” he told Israel’s Channel 2 TV.
The prime minister said he had hoped that when Weizman was re-elected to a second term in March he would “behave like his predecessors,” who kept to the largely ceremonial role of the office.
The president, elected by Israel’s parliament, has no authority to determine the date of the next elections. However, Weizman is Israel’s most popular politician, and with his stinging criticism of Netanyahu he lent greater credibility to opposition claims that early elections are the only way to rescue the peace process with the Palestinians.
Cabinet ministers and legislators close to Netanyahu launched a counterattack, saying Weizman overstepped his authority and called for his resignation.