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Peres Undermining Peace Process, Netanyahu Says

August 22, 1996| From Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is accusing his predecessor and rival, Shimon Peres, of undermining the peace process by meeting with Arab leaders.

Peres' "quasi-diplomatic activities were encouraging the Palestinian side to be more intransigent," Netanyahu spokesman David Bar-Illan said Wednesday, accusing Peres of "panic mongering."

"We have no objection to Peres meeting Arab leaders," Bar-Illan said. "The objection is to Peres advertising the meeting as though he were coming to the rescue of the peace process."

Peres will meet Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat today, and is also planning to visit Morocco, where he may meet King Hassan II, aides said Wednesday.

Netanyahu, a bitter critic of Peres' peace policies, has avoided meeting Arafat since taking office in June. His efforts to meet with Hassan have been rebuffed.

Peres, who has accused the new government of uniting the Arab world against Israel, told the Yediot Aharonot newspaper earlier this week that he was "very worried by the possibility that the present government will halt the peace process. In such a case, the Middle East will face a real danger of nuclear war."

Netanyahu lashed back: "I read in the newspaper that Peres intends to come to the rescue of the peace process. His interference in the peace process is putting a spoke in the wheels of the negotiations."

The dispute reflects the Netanyahu government's sensitivity over Nobel Peace Prize winner Peres' enormous international prestige.

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