PM: Israel to make heavy concessions

By GIL HOFFMAN, JPOST

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would be willing to withdraw from a vast amount of territory in Judea and Samaria in return for genuine peace in a final-status agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

Olmert conditioned the withdrawal on the Palestinians keeping all their commitments in the road map, which would be implemented without skipping its stages.

The prime minister said this could take time, but his office vigorously denied an Israel Radio report that Olmert said it could take 20 to 30 years.

“I am not talking about withdrawing from all of the territories but rather from specific territories that will be under Palestinian control,” Olmert told the committee. “The withdrawal will not take place in a way that will abandon Israeli security. I won’t enter the argument of when it will take place but the road map will be part of any agreement.”

Olmert tried to lower expectations for the November summit in Washington, repeatedly calling on MKs not to call the event a “peace conference.” He referred to it instead as a “short international meeting intended to give international encouragement to the process that we initiated with the Palestinians.”

The goal of the summit, according to Olmert, is to increase support for Abbas on the Palestinian street and deepen Israel’s ties with moderate Arab countries.

“We don’t need to build exaggerated expectations that tomorrow there will be an accord,” Olmert said. “But statements said in an international forum by a man perceived as the leader of the Palestinian people have a certain weight. It’s not an alternative to implementation but it could lead to a process. If we don’t strengthen the moderates now, there could be an endless cycle of violence.”

Olmert and Abbas will meet again next week to finalize the guidelines for a joint declaration that would be delivered at the White House.

Following the meeting, Israeli and Palestinian teams will begin the work of hammering out the final details.

“The joint statement is not an agreement or similar to an agreement,” Olmert cautioned. “It won’t bring about a fundamental change in the diplomatic process. But it is an attempt to more clearly define expectations on fundamentals that will be the basis for future negotiations.”

Opposition MKs blasted Olmert, telling him that he had already gone too far in his talks with Abbas by agreeing to release Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails and by discussing territorial concessions in Jerusalem.

“You don’t have a mandate from the Jewish people to make these concessions,” Likud MK Silvan Shalom told the prime minister. Shalom said that in order to implement a West Bank withdrawal, Olmert would need either a referendum or new elections.

Referring to the planned release of 90 Palestinian security prisoners approved by the cabinet on Sunday, National Union MK Zvi Hendel told Olmert that he would accept a decision to release terrorists if [Olmert] would “promise to resign the minute one of the prisoners freed attacked a Jew.”

Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu told Olmert that he was “the only one who genuinely thinks that [Abbas] is a partner who can keep Israel secure.” He asked him if he had discussed dividing Jerusalem and accepting Palestinian refugees in his talks with Abbas.

In his response, the prime minister referred indirectly to Netanyahu’s confirmation last week of Israeli involvement in an alleged air strike in Syria three weeks ago. “Yes, we have discussed those issues, but I won’t give details, because this is a public meeting,” Olmert said.

The prime minister said that Israel was concerned by recent events in Lebanon, particularly violent attacks, such as last Wednesday’s car bombing attack that killed anti-Syrian lawmaker Antoine Ghanem and left six others dead.

Turning to the current situation between Israel and Syria, Olmert said that neither side wanted a violent conflict, and that the prevailing tension would soon dissipate. Olmert said, however, that at the moment, both Israel and Syria were “on their guard.” “We see their forces [deployed], and they see ours,” Olmert said. “I think they are not interested in a violent conflagration and neither are we.”

September 24, 2007 | 3 Comments »

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3 Comments / 3 Comments

  1. If only Olmert was as clever at leading Israel as opposed to savvy about holding onto his leadership.

    Unfortunately Olmert is only smart for himself and if he is allowed to carry on the way he has, Israel will have its own Naqbah to recall each year.

  2. I have put a lot of thought into just what kind of pressure Bush and condi might bring to bear on Olmert and Israel to get them to make choices they otherwise would never make? I have also pondered upon just what harm the United States under a Bush with just over a year to go before he relinquishes power could do to hurt Israel? I looked at ours and their situation and I came up with one word NOTHING! In a long political campaign Israel would be a hot potato for any candidate to cross. Bush as unpopular as he is at home and even in the Republican Party he is a negative asset. No congress in an election year would approve anything that Israel opposed. Israel on the other hand could easily stop Bushes planned 20 billion payoff in arms to the Saudis, Egyptians, and Gulf States.
    My gut and my brain tell me the the so called American pressure ploy is needed by Israeli Politicians who have an advanced appeasement agenda and need the pretense of American so called pressure to sell to a public which is opposed to the end results of Israeli Leadership appeasement agendas.

    Olmert needs to stay in power if for no other reason to stay out of prison. Since it is constitutionally difficult to indict a sitting PM, He will do anything and everything to that end with no real personal and national red lines. Most Israelis will buy the American pressure ploy for the Mass Gullible Public. It worked for Barak, it worked for Sharon and Hanegbi, and it will work for Olmert, as our public servants, Mass Media, and Judiciary are all in the leftist appeasement camp and will thus support and protect Olmert. The bolder his give away the more they will protect him.

  3. … to withdraw from a vast amount of territory in Judea and Samaria in return for genuine peace in a final-status agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

    Genuine peace with Abbas may be something to start with, but what about peace with the rest of the Arab nation? How much additional vast territory will they require in return for genuine peace?

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