Olmert: There's not much time left for peace

PM: Future leaders will have to offer "more than what Barak offered at Camp David" to seal peace deal.

olmert 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
olmert 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
To seal an agreement with the Palestinians, future Israeli leaders would have to offer them "more than what Ehud Barak offered at Camp David," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya on Thursday. He said that he himself had made Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a concrete offer that remained unanswered. Olmert warned that time was running out in the quest for peace with the Palestinians and the Syrians. "Time is not working in Israel's favor," he said. "If Israel doesn't initiate a political solution in an active and dynamic fashion it will be harming its own interests. That's true in relation to the Palestinians and in relation to Syria. No delusion or slogan will change the fact that a solution will require concessions that many of us are unwilling to even think about." Olmert responded to a recent claim by Syrian President Bashar Assad that Turkish-mediated indirect negotiations between the two countries had nearly come to fruition with Olmert agreeing to concede the entire Golan Heights. Throwing the ball back into Syria's court, Olmert said, "The Syrians know that I understand exactly what we have to give up in order to reach peace. Had I been convinced that the Syrians understand what they have to give up, it is possible that the gap between us would have been bridged." The outgoing prime minister warned that both the Syrian and Palestinian negotiation tracks would require Israelis to make "heart-wrenching concessions which will be emotionally difficult to implement. "That's also true with regards to the Palestinians. The question isn't whether they are ready, though that's a good question and they will have to answer it. Rather, the question is whether we will use the excuse of their unreadiness so that we don't have to come to concessions. We will have to offer more to [the Palestinians] than what Ehud Barak offered at Camp David." But he seemed to put this onus back on the Palestinians. "There was one opportunity in my negotiations with Abu Mazen [Abbas], when I put on the table an offer that dealt with the heart of the problems and all our historic emotional heritage of thousands of years. I said to him, Here you go, just sign. That was six months ago; I haven't heard back yet." "If the next government tries to avoid [concessions] we will be left with one solution; one state for two people." He said he hoped the next government would have "the courage and wisdom" to seal a peace agreement.