Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is seen in Jerusalem District Court.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert met in Paris on Friday with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and praised him as a peacemaker.
Sources close to Olmert said the Palestinians initiated the meeting after they saw him say in an interview with the i24 television channel that he wanted to meet with Abbas. When the Palestinians found out Olmert would be on a private family visit in Paris at the same time that Abbas would be there to meet with French President Emanuel Macron, they arranged the meeting.
“President Abbas never said no to me,” Olmert told Palestinian television at the meeting. “It’s true he didn’t say yes but I’m sure, as President Abbas said, it’s also true that had I been able to continue my term in office for three or four more months, there would have been peace between us and the Palestinians. He doesn’t reject continuing the framework we discussed.”
Olmert said Abbas is the only person among the Palestinian people who is capable of reaching an agreement. He said that the PA leader proved in the past that he can fight terrorism and is committed to seeking peace.
The two leaders met more than 100 times during the three years Olmert was prime minister, culminating in what is seen as the most generous offer Israel has ever made to the Palestinians in September 2008. Talks ended then, and Olmert left office due to criminal probes in March 2009 that resulted in his going to prison on bribery charges in 2015.
Sources close to Olmert said he did not criticize the current American policies in his meeting with Abbas and that he did not inform Netanyahu about the meeting in advance. The sources said no further meetings with Abbas had been set.
The meeting evoked outrage from Israeli politicians.
“Olmert, who offered the Western Wall to Abbas, has become his loyal spokesman,” the Likud said. “In the United States and in Arab countries, it is already understood that Abbas is the true obstacle to peace and that the product of his demands would not be peace but the destruction of the State of Israel.”
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren (Kulanu), a former ambassador to the US, said that when former US secretary of state John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif, he was threatened with prosecution under the American Logan Act, which bars US citizens from meeting leaders of hostile countries without permission from the US government. Oren said Israel needs a Logan Act.
“What Olmert did is a harsh violation of our democracy,” he said.
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