"We are dealing with a Palestinians leadership that is, in many ways, weak. It doesn't presently posses the power and the authority to enforce its rule on Judea and Samaria, and certainly not on Gaza," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a meeting with Kadima's Young Guard Wednesday night.
However, he added, "for the first time there is a Palestinian government that publicly declares: 'We don't want to fight Israel, we are against terror, we support Israel.'"
Olmert said that Israel has already made some accomplishments in its negotiations with the Palestinians, most notably an unequivocal understanding that any future agreement would depend on a Palestinian crackdown on terror. "It's not easy, it's a complex process that requires patience, but I don't think that there's an alternative. Therefore I feel committed to this issue.
"I intend to invest all my efforts in attempting to create prospects of hope for the people of Israel and our neighbors, so that we can ensure a life of prosperity and security here."
"Believe me," Olmert added, " I'm not naïve. I never said that in Annapolis we would reach agreement easily. This is a very long process and we need to do the utmost to kick-start it."
The prime minister also stated that if Israel did not move towards peace now, the situation with the Palestinians could deteriorate further, and Hamas could take over the West Bank.
'I sympathize with teachers'
Turning his attention to the education crisis in the country, the prime minister said, "For many years the State of Israel has neglected the education system and abandoned the teaching profession, and as a result, the achievements of that system remained poor."
Referring to the high school teachers' strike, which has been going on for over a month, the prime minister said, "With all my goodwill, I cannot resolve with one decision the neglect and the mistakes that the State of Israel has done for the last 20 years."
Olmert stressed the importance of the teaching profession, and said that if the state fails to address the crisis, "The price we will pay, in national terms, could be terrible." He added that the government cared about the teachers and that he himself fully sympathized with their sentiments.