Former prime minister Ehud Olmert does not oppose the Palestinian Authority's bid to gain non-member-state observer status at the United Nations, saying that it is "congruent with the basic concept of the two-state solution," in comments published by The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
"I see no reason to oppose it. Once the United Nations will lay the foundation for this idea, we in Israel will have to engage in a serious process of negotiations, in order to agree on specific borders based on the 1967 lines, and resolve the other issues," the Beast quoted Olmert as saying.
"It is time to give a hand to, and encourage, the moderate forces amongst the Palestinians. Abu-Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] and [PA Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad need our help. It's time to give it,” Olmert added, according to the report.
Jerusalem has opposed the PA's move to upgrade the Palestinian delegation's status which the UN General Assembly is expected to vote in favor of on Thursday.
The US, adamantly opposed to the step because of a fear that it will set the diplomatic process back and make it more difficult to restart negotiations, continued to try and get the Palestinian Authority to drop the bid. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and US Middle East envoy David Hale met in New York on Wednesday with Abbas in a last-ditch effort to dissuade him from the move.
Opinion in Jerusalem was split over whether Abbas would offer to negotiate with Israel after the resolution was passed.
While some diplomatic officials argued that this “victory” would give Abbas the “ladder” to “come off the tree and back to the negotiating table,” others argued that Abbas’s comments to the effect that he would negotiate with Israel after the resolution was passed were made only to win the votes of the Europeans.
They said that PA spokesmen had already repeated their preconditions of a complete settlement freeze before talks can begin, something Israel has long rejected.
Olmert's comments came amid continuing speculation that he could still possibly reenter the political arena as a challenger to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ahead of the January 22 election.
On Tuesday, he endorsed Kadima and agreed to serve on the committee that will decide its list of candidates for the election.
Olmert's associates said his participation in the committee would have no impact on his decision about whether to run, which would only be made when he returns from his visit to the United States next Tuesday. Lists of candidates must be submitted to the central elections committee by next Thursday.
"As long as he has not chosen one of his options, all options continue to be on the table in one way or another," an Olmert associate said.
Herb Keinon and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.