Former prime minister Ehud Olmert at JPost Conference 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday defended PA President Mahmoud Abbas for not accepting the peace deal that Olmert himself offered the Palestinians during his tenure, but added that Israelis could do more to advance peace.
Speaking during a panel discussion at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, Olmert said that "the Palestinians did not say no to my peace plan," adding that Israeli ministers advised the PA president not to accept the plan.
"First and foremost, the Palestinians are guilty," he said. "They should have answered my plan, and they should have answered Barak's plan."
"We are looking for excuses," Olmert said. "We should present [the Palestinians] with plans and let them respond."
Earlier, during his address to the conference, Olmert declared that there is still time to stop Iran with sanctions and diplomacy.
He said that the United States needed to lead the international efforts to stop Iran and slammed the current Israeli government of clashing with US President Barack Obama over the Palestinian peace process.
"There is enough time to try different avenues of pressure to change the balance of power with Iran without the need for a direct military confrontation with Iran and now is not the right time [for a military strike] which may not lead to the right outcome that is needed to ensure the security of the State of Israel."
Speaking out against Defense Minister Ehud Barak's claim that sanctions will not be effective, Olmert said there was still time before military action would be needed. He also criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's comparisons of Iran to Nazi Germany.
"I am not certain that when we speak loudly it is more helpful than when we speak privately and quietly with the leadership of those countries," he said.
"It is not a good strategy to fight with the president," Olmert said. "Israel needs to support and respect the president and not fight with him."
Booed by the crowd, Olmert said that Israel needs to make concessions to the Palestinians in peace talks in order to gain legitimacy in the international arena. Olmert also said that Israel does not need to hold on to Arab parts of Jerusalem under a future peace deal and in order to retain a Jewish majority in the Israeli capital.
"I am not certain that when we talk about Jerusalem and the indivisibility of Jerusalem do we mean [it] in real terms, how significant it is for the future of the State of Israel and the Jewish character of the city of Jerusalem that Arab parts that were technically added to the city limits will forever remain part of Jerusalem," he said.Yaakov Katz contributed to this report