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(photo credit: AP)
"Negotiations will address all the issues which thus far have been evaded", Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said during his address at the Annapolis parley on Tuesday.
"We will not avoid any subject," he said. "While this will be an extremely difficult process for many of us, it is nevertheless inevitable. I know it. Many of my people know it. We are ready for it."
"I believe that the post-1967 reality will be changed in a very significant manner," Olmert stressed.
Speaking directly to the Arabs at the conference, he said: "It is time to end the boycott and alienation toward the state of Israel," referring to Arab nations who do not have relations with Israel.
"We no longer and you no longer have the privilege of clinging to dreams which are disconnected from the suffering of our peoples," he said.
"We want peace. We demand an end to terror and incitement and hatred. We are prepared to make painful compromises despite the risks in order to realize these aspirations. I came here today not to settle historic accounts. I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I acknowledge the fact that in addition to the many who suffered in Israel - something that has always been part of our lives - your people too have suffered for many years and there are those who are also suffering today," Olmert continued.
According to the prime minister, "We are not indifferent to this suffering, we are not oblivious to the tragedies you have experienced."
Olmert reiterated the statement read previously by US President George Bush.
"Talks will take place at our home and your home; they will be bilateral, direct and ongoing in an effort to complete the process in the course of 2008."
According to Olmert, "When negotiations are concluded, I believe we will be able to fulfill the vision set out by President Bush: two states for two people; a terror-free state for the Palestinians and a Jewish democratic state, free of terror threats, and a home to the Jewish people - for the State of Israel."
Olmert vowed to "abide by all of our obligations", adding, "and so will you."
Turning to Arab leaders, Olmert said, "There isn't a single Arab state with which we do not seek peace with. Anyone who wants to make peace we say from the bottom of our heart 'ahalan wa'sahalan' (a welcoming phrase in Arabic)."
"I see here representatives of Arab countries who do not have relations with us. We cannot watch the peace train go by. You must end the boycott and obliviousness towards Israel; it doesn't serve you and it offends us," the prime minister said.
In an unusual gesture, Olmert said he values and acknowledges the importance of the Arab Initiative. "I have no doubt that we will continue to refer to it during talks with the Palestinians," he said.
According to the prime minister, "Peace with Egypt and Jordan is an example and model of relations we can build with Arab states."
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