The US would have accepted 100,000 Palestinian refugees had Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accepted then-prime minister Ehud
diplomatic overtures in 2008, Olmert said on Sunday.
In a speech
sponsored by the Geneva Initiative at Tel Aviv’s Eretz Israel Museum,
outlined the offer he made the Palestinians at the end of his
included a contiguous Palestinian state, transferring control over
“holy basin,” an area including the Old City, to the stewardship of five
countries, and accepting thousands of Palestinian refugees into Israel
Analysis: Olmert indictment likely, but not definite
The differing valuations of Olmert’s pen collection
“The US would have been willing to accept 100,000
refugees,” he said, revealing a previously unknown detail of his negotiations
Olmert said that in all of his talks with world leaders, none
expected Israel to accept all the Palestinian refugees. But he said he was proud
to be the first Israeli prime minister to express sympathy with their plight. He
said a limited number of refugees could be accepted on the basis of the Saudi
On Jerusalem, Olmert revealed that he gave Abbas
maps with a detailed border down to specific houses, roads and
“Whoever wants to solve the conflict with the Palestinians must
deal immediately with the five core issues, because if we solve them, we can
solve the rest of the problems,” he said. “Whoever thinks they can deal with
water before dealing with borders will never deal with borders.”
said the Palestinians now regret not accepting his offer. In veiled criticism of
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he challenged him to put reaching a
diplomatic agreement ahead of staying in power.
“I don’t doubt the
current prime minister’s resolve to protect Israel’s security,” Olmert said.
“But when a man reaches such a lofty position, he must consider: What will you
do with the time you have? “You must be loyal to the truth you believe in,” he
“You can’t abandon this responsibility because of political
Regarding Netanyahu’s construction moratorium in Judea
and Samaria, Olmert said the Palestinians and the American
not agree with the building that he did in the West Bank, but they
accept it and the Palestinians did not use it as an excuse to avoid
the diplomatic process.
Olmert said he did not believe US President
Barack Obama was hostile to Israel, and that it was not in Israel’s
“There is no difference between the views of George W.
Bush, who is acknowledged as the ultimate friend of Israel, and the
Obama,” Olmert said.