Speaking for what may be the last time in office at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday morning, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert focused on the importance of expediting the signing of a peace accord with the Palestinian Authority.
"Every day that goes by without our reaching a deal with the Palestinians is a day we may regret in the future, and I say this as a man who once had, and fought for very different ideas," Olmert said. "If we don't reach a deal fast we'll be missing an opportunity, and missing that opportunity may come at an unbearable price."
"There's no magic formula through which a deal can be agreed upon – and the price will be very heavy. This must be said, with courage and frankness. And I think that the price we pay now will be lower than what we will have to pay in the future," said Olmert.
In response to comments made by MKs regarding the dangers involved in ceding territory to the Palestinians, Olmert said: "To those talking about missile threats – I can say now that all of Israel is already in the range of terror organizations, and so a meter here or there – doesn't matter."
Goodbye to 'Greater Israel'
The prime minister reiterated his comments from Sunday's cabinet meeting, in which he said that the "notion of a Greater Israel no longer exists, and anyone who still believes in it is deluding themselves."
"The Left doesn't see it this way, but I believe that every inch from the Jordan River westward is part of the historic Israel, since no other culture ever ruled there. Every excavation in that region yields finds tied to its Jewish history. But now there are different people living there. There is a genuine fear that the binational narrative will be established, and then we won't be the majority. Unfortunately, I find there is a growing sentiment in the international community embracing the idea of one state for two peoples," said Olmert.
The prime minister said maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel was imperative. "I see the Jewish state as crucial to our existence. In no other way can we ensure our survival and fight for our existence. As
opposed to any other epoch in Jewish history, only in the State of Israel have we succeeded in guaranteeing the ability of every Jew to fight for their life. The choice that stands before us today entails a compromise. The question is: Is that compromise better than its absence. I am hiding nothing, covering nothing up. I am laying down all the cards before the Israeli people.
"If we want a territorial compromise, it will be quid pro quo. There are other ways to reach that result, through exchanging swaths of land, and I don't intend to go into the details of the negotiations right now."