President Shimon Peres' attendance at a celebration marking thirty years since the government approved the establishment of the West Bank settlement of Ariel has sparked the ire of the Peace Now movement.
In a letter to Peres' office, Yariv Oppenheimer, secretary-general of Peace Now, wrote that the president's attendance "gives dangerous legitimacy to the continued policy of construction in the settlements and aids the enemies of peace from within to hinder the vision of two states," Army Radio reported on Tuesday.
Peres' office responded in a statement that said, "Shimon Peres is the president of the entire state of Israel and all of its citizens, and he has no intention to enter into political disagreements by virtue of fulfilling his duty."
Ron Nahman, the mayor of Ariel, responded by saying that the settlement is part of the national consensus - meaning that Israel will likely retain the settlement in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.
"We are proud of the fact that the president was a member of the ministerial committee that approved the founding of Ariel," said Nahman.
"Peres came to bless Ariel on this day of celebration," he said. "If Peace Now wants to protest they can do so."
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