Olmert, Barak compare 2007 to 1947

PM tells special Knesset session on partition plan that "there is no alternative" to dividing the land.

david ben gurion 224.88 (photo credit: GPO)
david ben gurion 224.88
(photo credit: GPO)
David Ben-Gurion was right in accepting the United Nations' plan to create two states for two peoples 60 years ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday. "There is no other alternative to that decision," Olmert said at a Knesset event marking the 60 anniversary of the UN decision. "Israel deserves credit from the world for accepting the partition while the Arab world rejected it, setting off a two-year war after Israel declared its independence six months later." Olmert told his Kadima faction he was committed to working toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, saying the Annapolis peace summit was the "the right and just" step to take. "We refused to set a deadline for concluding the talks for obvious reasons, but we need to finish these negotiations as quickly as possible," he said, in the first meeting with his faction since he returned from Annapolis. "I know that from the beginning people tried to minimize and discount Annapolis, but the presence of 40 states at the foreign minister level, along with all the leading Arab states, at an event with the declared goal of making peace with Israel - that is a big achievement." Labor chairman Ehud Barak, who was five years old in 1947, told the Labor faction he remembered the announcement of the UN's decision. "We cannot forget or allow our enemies to forget that Israel accepted the painful partition and the other side turned it down and attacked us," he said. "We have come full circle and now there is again a need to divide the land, even though we have a right to all of it. The practical, diplomatic and political circumstances require the division of the land to achieve security and stability." Hundreds of diplomats and relatives of the ambassadors who voted for the partition at the UN session on November 29, 1947, were at attendance at Monday's special Knesset session. While Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and President Shimon Peres reinforced Olmert's message, opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu challenged the prime minister's commitment to the peace process. The Palestinians want "two states for one people - a Palestinian state, and an Israeli state flooded with Palestinians under what they call the 'right of return' of refugees displaced during the war, along with their descendants," Netanyahu said, highlighting one of the most disputed points of the negotiations. Olmert said the Annapolis summit did not enter into the details of the road map, but rather reaffirmed Palestinian and Israeli commitments to resuming the peace process. In the upcoming negotiations, he said, Israel would certainly take part in rehabilitating Palestinian refugees, but was not prepared to grant the full right of return to settle them in Israel. "I do not underestimate the hardships involved [in the process]," Olmert said, and I will not compromise Israel's security in the least, but as long as there is a chance for peace, I will keep fighting for it." All the Arab MKs boycotted the session.