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Friday, 16 November, 2001, 17:38 GMT
Israeli anger over Peres' UN speech
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Mr Peres made the speech at the United Nations
Political leaders in Israel have reacted angrily to a United Nations speech by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in which he said most Israelis supported the creation of a Palestinian state.

Members of the Israeli Cabinet called for Mr Peres' resignation.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has not commented on Mr Peres' remarks, which Israeli media said were made with the prime minister's approval.

In a 20-minute address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Mr Peres said that in Israel "there is support for a Palestinian independence, support for a Palestinian state", but, he said, it was not the official policy of the government.

Right wing Israelis hold a mock wedding between Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat
Right-wingers held protests linking Peres and Arafat
Mr Sharon recently publicly endorsed a Palestinian state, but with strict limitations.

Israeli Interior Minister Uzi Landau, a member of Mr Sharon's Likud party in Israel's national unity government, accused Mr Peres of "carrying out an attack on Israel's national security and having encouraged terrorism".

Tourism Minister Benny Eilon, whose predecessor was assassinated by Palestinian militants last month, said Mr Peres should resign.


Environment Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said Mr Sharon should fire Mr Peres.

The right should roll up their sleeves and say what they really want - a two-nation state?

Shimon Peres
"It's shameful that the foreign minister said this, acting like he doesn't represent the government and the parliament," Mr Hanegbi told Israel public radio.

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Sharon's main rival within Likud, said talk of a Palestinian state was "rewarding (Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat) by telling him that not only can he wage terror against us... but we are going to give him a terrorist state in the heart of Israel."

BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says the controversy is a sign of how divided the Israeli Cabinet still is in its attitude towards the Palestinians.

Pressure from right

Mr Sharon, he says, prefers to distance himself from his foreign minister's current diplomatic initiative, not least because of the pressure he is under from the Israeli right.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Sharon has distanced himself from the speech
But while the prime minister cannot ignore such pressure, he also wants to show the Americans that he is ready for peace talks with the Palestinians - albeit on certain conditions.

Mr Peres stood by his remarks on Friday, saying he had simply stated facts.

The foreign minister told Israel radio: "They (the right) should roll up their sleeves and say what they really want. A two-nation state?"

In continuing violence, meanwhile, Israeli police shot dead a Palestinian and wounded another near the central Israeli city of Ramle and sent tanks into Palestinian areas of Gaza.

Israel radio said the men were suspected of planning a terror attack.

Palestinian security officials said Israeli tanks destroyed farmland in northern Gaza and destroyed a police post near the Karni crossing in central Gaza. The Israeli army has not commented on the report.

Earlier, Palestinians fired a home-made rocket at an Israeli army position on the edge of the Gaza Strip for the first time. The rocket caused no casualties, the Israeli army said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
"It may not happen at once but it will happen"
See also:

15 Nov 01 | Middle East
Peres backs Palestinian state
15 Nov 01 | Middle East
Peres faces the Palestine question
15 Nov 01 | Media reports
Israeli president's letter to Palestinians
15 Nov 01 | Middle East
Israel defends raid on Gaza camp
13 Nov 01 | Middle East
Amnesty calls for Mid-East observers
12 Nov 01 | Middle East
US promises new Mid-East initiative
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