"I asked Peres to get involved," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a press conference on Wednesday in an attempt to refute rumors that his office was displeased with President Shimon Peres' interference in diplomatic matters.
"I asked the president to be involved in as many subjects as possible, including Israel's political and international affairs," Olmert stressed, "Not only does this opportunity not frighten me, but it excites me."
The two leaders held a meeting at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, which was followed by a short press conference in which Olmert continued to praise the new president.
"Peres is one of the most important statesmen in the world, and is accepted by world leaders all over the globe, and the opportunity to take advantage of his experience and wisdom is an asset Israel should use – and I plan to take advantage of this asset and these abilities.
"Therefore, don't be surprised. He will be more active in such matters than some of the commentators, who have been waiting for a falling out or argument, could have imagined," Olmert said.
Regarding talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Omlert said, "Talks with him are very serious. I believe there is a chance in the near future to ripen a process leading up to talks, which will be discussed practically in stages for the establishment of a Palestinian state."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres (Photo: GPO)
The prime minister expressed hope that the Saudis and other Arab countries would join in the peace process, but said, "We will not sit idly by. We are leading the process, we are pushing the process forward.
"We are initiating steps in this process and we will not stop because we are convinced the progress serves Israel's interest, Israeli hope and the Israeli public, and this is what we ultimately need."
'We see eye-to-eye'
President Peres said, "The State of Israel has enough needs for a job for every one of us. We are working out of complete understanding. My job is to serve the whole Knesset, the whole state, and I will do so loyally."
In response to Ynet's question about the government's willingness to make extreme concessions to the Palestinians, Peres said, "I have no doubts regarding the abilities of the Israel government headed by (Olmert) in dealing with the present difficulties. I know that Olmert is not blind to these difficulties. I know that he is determined to face them.
"I believe that the prime minister is fighting quite a few difficulties and is facing the task in a very impressive manner for the good of the state," Peres continued, "I view it as my duty to aid him in anyway way I can, in the frame of the existing limitations."
Pointing out the friendly relationship between himself and the prime minister, Peres said, "The talks between us were informal, because we are not formal people. I believe that working together will contribute a lot to the state, its residents and its welfare, while respecting everyone – even in other parties.
"At the end of the day, we see eye-to-eye on Israel's problems and its goals. I also think that within the state itself, the differences of opinion have shrunk and the consensus has grown."