After a suicide bombing that killed five people, Israel's president said Tuesday that the Israel-PLO peace talks are not working and the two sides should sit down immediately to decide the fate of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Ezer Weizman told the Maariv newspaper that the current strategy of talking peace amid violence, while leaving the big questions unanswered, is failing."Where is it written that continuing the talks with the Palestinians is the main thing? Are we doing enough to fight terror? Is now the time to leave all the major cities in the West Bank?" Weizman asked.
"In my view, we have to move straight to the final settlement," said Weizman, who has no policy-making power.
Weizman did not say what sort of final settlement he would like to see take shape. But his escalating criticism of the peace process has heartened Israelis who believe the temporary solution proposed in the Israel-PLO accord is too complicated and exposes the 140,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza to danger.
Under the agreement, Israeli troops will pull out of West Bank cities in phases without dismantling Jewish settlements, and Palestinians will hold elections.
Left to future negotiations is possible Palestinian statehood and other tough issues, including the final borders, the future of Jerusalem, the return of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jewish settlements.
Weizman said he was not convinced that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat could contain the anti-Israel violence.
"We have to sit and reassess the situation. It cannot continue this way," he said.
His comments came a day after an explosion tore through two crowded buses in Jerusalem, killing five people, including an American teacher.
The Muslim group Hamas, which opposes the Israel-PLO peace process, claimed responsibility and warned of more attacks.