Photo: Shahar Azran
Olmert with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Saban Forum
Photo: Shahar Azran
Olmert says Abbas 'real partner for peace'
Former prime minister criticizes Netanyahu at Saban Forum in Washington, says Palestinian UN bid could have been avoided. 'The sooner we reach a two-state agreement, the better it is for Israel,' he says
VIDEO - "I'm running, I run 11 kilometers every day," former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Saturday night when asked where he has made a decision about joining the Israeli election campaign.


He took advantage of his conversation with Washington post senior columnist David Ignatius at the Saban Forum in Washington to attack the Netanyahu government, stating that the current government "must be replaced."


Olmert in Washington (Video: Reuters)    (צילום: רויטרס)


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Olmert harshly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conduct in regards to the United Nations General Assembly vote which recognized Palestine as a non-member state, saying that had Israel spoken with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the Palestinian UN bid could have been prevented.


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He ridiculed those who see Barack Obama as an enemy of Israel, saying that the American president proved that he is a friend of Israel by voting with Israel against the Palestinian bid. He accused the government of showing its "gratitude" to Obama by approving the construction of 3,000 new housing units beyond the Green Line.


Declaring 3,000 building units was "the worst slap" in Obama's face, he added.


'I won't make any announcement in US'

Asked whether he planned to run in the upcoming elections, Olmert said: "In any event I am going to make a statement or an announcement to the public when I'm in Israel. I don't think it will be appropriate to make any announcement while I'm here. I don't think it's proper, I don't think it's the right way to do it.


"By the way," he added, teasing Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, "I think the same about American relations. I don't think that the right way to make announcements about American politics or to raise funds for American politics is to bring American voters to Israel in order to raise funds for American presidency."


There are many reasons to replace the Israeli government, he said, but "the basic point is the fact that this government is not dedicated to the process of peace in a realistic way that can bring peace.


"Maybe at the end of the day, in spite of the genuine efforts which will be made, there will not be peace between us and the Palestinians. I don’t know. But I think that this is the primary responsibility of every Israeli government."


He added that "a friend of Israel should use every power persuasion he has in order to convince the government of Israel to immediately embark on the peace plan based on what I proposed, because this is the only peace plan that can be reached, and it must be reached not because of the Palestinians.


"I'm not a Palestinian patriot, I'm an Israeli patriot. Time is running out not for the Palestinians – for Israel. And the sooner we reach an agreement that would determine that there are two states, for two nationalities, for two peoples, the better it is for Israel."


Olmert criticized the Palestinians as well, saying that they had failed every opportunity to reach a peace agreement with Israel and that former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat was not a genuine partner for peace, as opposed to Abbas.


'Jerusalem concessions painful'

As for the negotiations with the Palestinians, Olmert stated that the most painful moment in his life was when he told Abbas that he would allow international sovereignty over Jerusalem's holy site, adding that he was elected as prime minister to make painful decisions – not to engage in nonsense.


The Saban Forum was established by Israeli-American businessman Haim Saban with the aim of strengthening ties between Israel and the US. This year, the forum was attended by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Ministers Dan Meridor and Silvan Shalom.


On Thursday, the Daily Beast published an article by Prof. Bernard Avisahi, who said Olmert had written him that he believed the Palestinian UN bid "is congruent with the basic concept of the two-state solution. Therefore, I see no reason to oppose it."


Olmert added, "Once the United Nations will lay the foundation for this idea, we in Israel will have to engage in a serious process of negotiations, in order to agree on specific borders based on the 1967 lines, and resolve the other issues."


The former prime minister further posited that the UN resolution presented an opportunity to prop up moderate Palestinian leaders.


"It is time to give a hand to, and encourage, the moderate forces amongst the Palestinians. Abu-Mazen and Salam Fayyad need our help," he said, referring to the PA's president and prime minister. "It's time to give it.”



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