(JTA) – Israel President Shimon Peres said that Israel cannot attack Iran on its own.
“We can delay the Iranian nuclear plan, but it is clear to us that we need to go with the United States,” Peres said during an interview with Channel 2 television. “President Barack Obama is determined to stop Iran and Israel cannot do it."
The official position of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is that Israel may attack Iran if that is the only way to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Israel’s president, who largely fills ceremonial tasks but is often a respected veteran politician, is selected by the Knesset.
The remarks were sharply criticized by several Knesset members in the ruling coalition.
Zeev Elkin, a Likud Knesset member, said he “regretted to see that Peres is returning to his days during the signing of the Oslo Accords, and proposes to once again gamble on the security of Israelis and hope for the best.”
Peres, as foreign minister for Yitzhak Rabin’s 1992-1995 government, initiated and pushed the at first secret negotiations with the Palestinians, which formally became known as the Oslo Accords for the Scandinavian city in which they were first hammered out.
Elkin said Peres had opposed the successful Israeli strike on the suspected Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. Had Peres’ warning been heeded then, Elkin said, “Saddam Hussein would have fired missiles of a different kind at Israel” during the Gulf War, Elkin said.
At the time, Peres was leader of the opposition Labor Party.
The statements were “an unabashed and explicit attack on the official policy of the government of the State of Israel, which was elected by the people. The people did not elect the president,” Gilrad Erdan, minister for environmental protection, also told Israel Army Radio on Friday.
The chairman of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, also criticized Peres for publicly expressing his opinion.
“In the State of Israel, the president has a symbolic role, whereas the prime minister and the cabinet members are the decision makers. Sticking to this division is particularly important on such important issues,” Sharansky told Israel Army Radio.