Olmert: Israel shouldn't have opposed PA UN bid

Former PM: PA UN move promotes Israel's interest in a two-state solution, stresses one state for two people solution is dangerous.

Olmert speaks at Saban Forum in Washington 370 (photo credit: Screenshot Brookings Institute )
Olmert speaks at Saban Forum in Washington 370
(photo credit: Screenshot Brookings Institute )
NEW YORK – Former prime minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that Israel had no reason to oppose the UN vote to grant the Palestinians non-member observer status last week, since it promoted Israel’s own interest in a two-state solution.
“This move is maybe more important for the long-range interests of the State of Israel than it is for the Palestinians,” Olmert said of the recognition of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. “At the end of the day, we all hope that there will be a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.”
Olmert, who was speaking to the dovish Israel Policy Forum in a visit to Manhattan, stressed the importance to Israel that “the danger of one state for two people will be removed from the agenda.”
Since the Palestinians’ upgraded status at the UN helps keep alive the two-state solution, he argued it was a mistake for the current Israeli government to try to prevent its adoption.
“I felt that there was no reason to oppose it,” he said.
Olmert, however, expressed deep gratitude for US President Barack Obama’s willingness to stand with Israel against the bid once Israel committed itself to the position and slammed the Israeli government for angering the US with its push for further settlements on Friday.
He praised America for agreeing “to isolate itself only in order not to leave Israel entirely alone,” voting with just eight other countries against the Palestinians during the vote last Thursday.
“I thought that the president deserves a vote of thanks by the Israeli people, and by the Israeli government,” Olmert said to applause from the audience.
“I was utterly surprised, as I can see now most countries in the world were,” he continued, “that the next morning the Israeli government decided to do the one thing which was certain to offend the policymakers of the United States of America.”
Olmert was referring to the 3,000 additional housing units approved for the West Bank and east Jerusalem, as well as plans to move ahead with preparing the E1 corridor between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim for development.
However, Olmert also had some critical words for Obama. The former premier recalled the negotiations he conducted with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the end of the George W. Bush administration and the far-reaching offer he made to the Palestinians.
He said that offer was never rejected by Abbas, and that when Obama took over from Bush after he himself left office, “I prayed then that the new administration in America would take it from where it was left and move on along these lines with both sides in order to accomplish what was so close anyway.”
But he noted that that didn’t happen.
“Every president falls in love with his own ideas and tends to ignore that which was done by the former president,” he said, adding, “It is true about all presidents and all parties.”