Olmert: PA elections historic opportunity
Acting prime minister says during Herzliya Conference ‘most important challenge Israel faces is formation of permanent borders to ensure Jewish majority in country.’ Adds that Palestinian Authority elections ‘a historic chance to establish a Palestinian state.' Right-wing MK: In Herzliya, Olmert founded state of Hamas
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that the most important challenge Israel faces is the formation of permanent borders to ensure a Jewish majority in the country.
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, Olmert said “A Jewish majority in Israel does not coincide with the continued control over the Palestinian population in the West Bank.”
“In order to ensure the existence of the Jewish homeland, we can't carry on controlling territories in which a Palestinian population lives. Israel will control areas needed for security, the Jewish settlement blocs, and places that have supreme value for the Jewish nation," he added.
"There is no Jewish State without Jerusalem as its capital and center," said Olmert.
On the eve of the Palestinian elections, and two months prior to the Israeli elections, Olmert reiterated Israel’s commitment to the Road Map, saying “the illegal outposts will be dismantled.”
'Israel interested in good neighborly relations'
“The Israeli government with me at the helm will insist on the implementation of the “Road Map” in its entirety,” he added.
Olmert referred to Wednesday’s elections in the Palestinian Authority as ‘a historic chance to establish a Palestinian state,” adding that, “The realization of opportunities consists of forgoing some national dreams, just as we have done.”
The acting prime minister said he does not deem the doomsday scenarios regarding the post-Palestinian elections era credible, saying, “Israel has the ability to protect itself and hurt the terrorists, just as we have done to date.”
“Israel is interested in good neighborly relations, and supports the establishment of a democratic and economically-prosperous Palestinian state,” he said.
“Their (Palestinians) well-being is our well-being; their stability is our stability.”
The Herzliya Conference, during which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon chose to present his disengagement plan two years ago, served as Olmert’s first real test since assuming acting prime minister duties following Sharon’s hospitalization.
“From here I’m sending my best the man (Sharon) who for the past five years led us to a reality in which there is a chance for a better future,” Olmert said.
Knesset Member Arieh Eldad (National Union), responded to a speech saying "Olmert is the beginning of the end of the State of Israel."
He added: "According to Olmert, we can't be in territories in which Palestinians live, we'll also get rid of the Galilee, the Triangle, the Negev; and the division of Jerusalem is around the corner."
'Speech was anti-Semitic'
National Union Faction Chairman Zvi Hendel said, "In Herzliya, Olmert founded the state of Hamas."
"In a stuttered and shallow speech, Olmert tried to show that he was the new Sharon, but behind the fog of media advisors lies a clear plan: The eviction and uprooting of Judea of Samaria, a division of Jerusalem, a return to the '67 borders, and an abandonment of the security of Israel," he said.
The Yesha council said in a statement that the "speech had an anti-Semitic tone towards settlers."
"Olmert, who emphasized in his speech that his hand is outstretched to Arab killers, assumes not to talk to the Yesha council, while declaring on perks to terrorists, and dedicating a war against Jewish settlement," the Council said.
The acting prime minister’s speech drew criticism from the Left as well, with Peace Now Director-General Yariv Oppenheimer saying, "Olmert's speech has nothing new, and promises to freeze the diplomatic process and the continuance of the current situation."
"If Olmert wants to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, he should invite the PA chairman for direct negotiations," added the Peace Now leader.