Olmert: Notion of Greater Israel no longer exists
PM concludes what may be his last cabinet meeting with reflections on peace process, cautions time not on Israel's side, international community may push for binational state solution if two-state one fails. Ramon: Everything east of security fence will not be under Israeli sovereignty
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert chose to end Sunday's cabinet meeting – which may be the last one he presided over as chairman of Kadima – by saying that "the notion of a Greater Israel no longer exists, and anyone who still believes in it is deluding themselves."
Olmert spoke soon after the cabinet's debate on the controversial evacuation-compensation bill ended. The bill, brought before the cabinet by Vice Premier Haim Ramon, was not put up for a vote.
"Forty years after the Six Day War ended, we keep finding excuses not to act. This isn't doing Israel any good. The international community in starting to view Israel as a future binational state. We can prove that we have been more creative than the other side through the years, and that they have been more obstinate, but as usual, we will win the debate by loosing sight of what's really important.
"We can always find very good reasons for not doing things now, and for why we would be better off postponing everything to a later date," continued Olmert. "We refuse to face reality. Time is not on Israel's side, not because our cause isn’t just, but because time has its own repercussions.
"I admit – this hasn’t always been my position. In the past I've said – and I said it to (Labor Chairman Ehud) Barak at the time – that what he agreed to in Camp David was wrong.
"I used to believe that everything from the Jordan Riverbank to the Mediterranean Sea was ours. After all, dig anywhere and you'll find Jewish history. But eventually, after great internal conflict, I've realized we have to share this land with the people who dwell here – that is if we don’t want to be a binational state," said Olmert.
'Israel can deal with threats'
Israel, he noted, is the most powerful nation in the region. "No other nation is as strong and no other nation in the Middle East can rival us. The strategic threats we face have nothing to do with where we draw our borders.
"We can argue about every single detail, but when we finally hash out an agreement we may find we no longer have the international community's backing, or a partner for that matter. We'll be left with nothing but the feeling that once again, as for the past 40 years, we were right.
"I'm not kidding myself," he added. "I know the change I'm talking about won’t rid us of all the threats. We'll still be facing Palestinians threats across the security fence, since they have no real security establishment, but we can deal with all of that and we would be better off dealing with it than cementing the notion of a binational state in the international community's mind."
The majority of the public, said the prime minister, knows the peace process with the Palestinians must be thrusts forwards.
"The public knows we can't put it off. Voluntary evacuation is a part of that realization. A day will come, probably sooner than some are willing to admit, that all of us will be willing to embrace the same solutions that some of us are rejecting right now.
"Israel has always known how to make wise decisions and how to protect itself. We have to ask ourselves is losing a hill here or there, is worth forfeiting the chance to achieve something. This is why I say that this is the time to discuss the evacuation-compensation (bill). We have to keep pushing it, and eventually bring it before the government.
"This is the time to push for peace with both the Palestinians and the Syrians. If we know how to do that, other Arab countries, which are yet to acknowledge us in public, will soon follow."
Following the cabinet meeting Ramon explained to reporters that the motivation behind promoting the evacuation compensation bill was to preserve Israel's Jewish and democratic identity.
"Everything east of the security fence will not be under Israeli sovereignty," he said. "We can control the (Jordan) Valley from a security sense, but we're talking about sovereignty."
As for the evacuation-compensation bill, Ramon said he intends on bringing it before the cabinet again "in a matter of weeks."