"Only fantasists can believe that in this day and age, and in the current situation, it is still possible to cling to the vision of 'Greater Israel,' Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.
The prime minister participated in the committee's session to brief them on the resumption of negotiations with Syria and to address criticism of his apparent willingness to cede the Golan Heights as part of a final peace agreement.
"Today we face the choice between Greater Israel and a Jewish nation – the two are mutually exclusive. They only exist together in the minds of deluded fantasists who misconstrue reality," he said.
The prime minister explained the decision to keep the talks under wraps despite the fact that the matter had been hotly debated by the committee on past occasions was the sensitive nature of the negotiations.
"Anyone in my chair understands that these moves need to be made with the utmost caution, and secrecy is a necessary part of that. Not even the entire cabinet could be privy to the information. I initiated this move in February 2007, with a record of four predecessors who went to Damascus and committed to painful concessions, and let no one put me to the test on proving those commitments – they are all accounted for."
As for international responses to the talks, particularly that of the United States, Olmert stressed that "there is not a single party in the world that told Israel not to negotiate for peace. Irregardless of this, I certainly shared our thoughts and the developments with our closest friends – as is natural.
"What tipped the scales what the burning question of what might happen if, heaven forbid, we would be drawn, due to a miscalculation, into a violent confrontation with Syria. Then I would be asked - how can it be that they were seeking peace and you did not even examine the possibility?"
Greater Israel or Jewish state – not both
Olmert also touched on the Palestinian issue, saying that negotiations with the Palestinian Authority were serious and going forward in good faith, but that time was a vital factor in the peace efforts.
Olmert rejected the possibility of 'an economic peace' prior to a final deal, saying that so long as Israel and the PA did not have an agreement backed by the international community regarding the outline of such a comprehensive agreement – nothing would change.
"We are talking about a leadership that wants and talks peace, and that does not instigate terrorism," he said, "the difference between my predecessors and I is the question of realization. We will carry out nothing the day after the deal is signed so long as the Palestinians have yet to fulfill their obligations."
"I was one of those who thought the two-state solution was wrong, but that was a mistake," he said. "Most today understand that the choice is between two states for two peoples or one state in which all have an equal right to vote."
Livnat: Olmert the delusional one
MK Limor Livnat (Likud) slammed Olmert's statements and called them "delusional for someone at the end of his political rope."
Livnat also said Olmert told the committee members that Israel was not negotiating with Hamas – as opposed to comments made by Deputy Premier Haim Ramon, who recently implied Israel was negotiating with the Islamist group despite past decisions against this.
MK Effie Eitam (National Union – NRP) accused Olmert of "trying to deceive the committee through guile and cunning, using stories and slogans.
"It is clear to me now that this is how he behaves in front of police investigators as well," said Eitam. "But his slickness will be of no help to him, we all remember how he brought Hamas to Gaza and Hizbullah to Lebanon and now he is plotting to bring Iran to the Golan Heights. He must be stopped, in the political arena and perhaps the criminal one."