PARIS - Following meetings with the leaders of the US, Egypt, Jordan, England and France, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday he is more convinced than ever that his plan to withdraw unilaterally from the West Bank will be implemented.
Olmert will wrap up his five-day European tour by meeting on Thursday with French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is considered the heir apparent to President Jacques Chirac. Olmert left his meeting with Chirac encouraged that, despite French opposition to unilateral moves, Chirac did not express opposition to the plan.
"Realignment is unstoppable," Olmert said defiantly in a briefing with reporters following the meeting. "It will be implemented - I hope with negotiations, but without, it will also be implemented. My belief in this has only been strengthened after my meetings with world leaders."
Responding to reports that he was reconsidering implementing the plan in coordination with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Olmert said he would implement it with or without him. He said the most important components of his plan were giving up most of the West Bank, holding on to settlement blocs, moving settlers behind a security border and forming a contiguous Palestinian state and not whether there was a partner.
Olmert said he gave Chirac a detailed explanation of the plan. While both leaders made a point of not mentioning the plan in their public statements, Olmert said that in their private talks, Chirac agreed with him that negotiations were ideal but that there could not be a diplomatic stalemate.
In a sign of respect, Chirac approached Olmert's prime ministerial Peugeot to greet him at the Palais De l'Elysees as he did a year ago for former prime minister Ariel Sharon. Prior to their meeting, both leaders made statements to the press in which Olmert called Chirac one of the greatest fighters against anti-Semitism in the world, and Chirac said that by electing Olmert, Israelis proved that they want peace and security.
"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has gone on for way too long and the time has come for peace in the region with two peaceful nations side by side," Chirac said. "This goal is especially important at a time when we are seeing a new escalation of violence that reiterates the need for negotiations."
In their talks, Olmert recalled meeting Chirac in 1984 when he, as mayor of Paris, visited Jerusalem. He said he was surprised by the friendliness of the French leader, who infamously refused to serve a glass of water to Binyamin Netanyahu when he visited Paris as prime minister.
"He was really nice, warm, patient and personal," Olmert said "The meeting was emotional, encouraging and interesting."
Olmert said Chirac did not raise either the IAF strike Tuesday on a car carrying Grad missiles that killed 11 Palestinians or Friday's Gaza beach incident in which seven Palestinians were killed. Olmert said that following the investigation that proved Israel was not responsible for Friday's incident, those who were quick to condemn Israel would have to reconsider their actions.
He made no mention of his daughter, who participated in a demonstration outside the home of IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz.
"We will do everything possible to prevent casualties," Olmert said "What happened on Tuesday was a tragedy that unfortunately could not have been prevented. If God forbid, one of the missiles would have hit its target, many Israelis would have been killed."
Defending his decision to allow 375 guns to be given to Abbas's forces, Olmert told reporters that Jordan and Egypt wanted to help Abbas and he decided against interfering by preventing the delivery.
Asked about the fate of the Temple Mount, Olmert said emphatically that he would ensure that it would remain under complete Israeli sovereignty.
Olmert later participated in the inauguration of the Alley of the Righteous Gentiles at the Paris Holocaust memorial with French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and the mayor of Paris. He also attended a dinner with French Jewish leaders in honor of the launch of the France-Israel Foundation, which was launched a year ago by Sharon and Chirac to improve ties between the countries on non-political matters.
Olmert, unlike Sharon, did not call on French Jews to come to Israel.