WASHINGTON - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israeli reporters in Washington Wednesday that Israel would not make any concessions unless the Palestinians comply with the US-backed Road Map for peace.
"This condition was stressed in the joint declaration and it is accepted by both the Americans and Palestinians," he said a day after the Annapolis peace conference.The prime minister said he believed the vast majority of the Israeli public would support "painful" concessions for peace, adding that he believed the Knesset would also back such a move.
"There is complete agreement on the distinction between the agreement we wish to implement by the end of 2008 and the actual ability to see it through," he said.
'I was certainly excited'
Olmert dismissed claims according to which his coalition was on the brink of collapse following the joint declaration with the Palestinians, saying it would "continue to be stable".
Of the joint statement given by himself, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US President George W. Bush on Tuesday, Olmert said: “I was certainly excited to stand in front of the entire world and give this joint statement along with the president of the United States and the Palestinian Authority president. After all, this event was televised all over the world.
"I was immensely proud to represent the state of Israel at this juncture. As I sat down to write the speech that I would give, I wondered whether I should speak in Hebrew or in English. I ultimately settled on speaking in Hebrew, because I felt that I was representing a nation with a grand history and cultural tradition, and as such I should speak in the Hebrew language,” he said.
Olmert went on to praise Saudi Arabia's participation in the conference. "I saw him (Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal) sitting there and clapping his hands; this indicates that the Saudis see themselves as contributors to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians," he said.
As for the prospect of renewed negotiations with Syria, the prime minister said "I see willingness on our part for a change, and I would be very pleased to see it on their part as well."