Olmert: US was ready to absorb 100,000 Palestinian refugees

Former prime minister also says he "wrote things as they were" in his autobiography regarding Barak's desire to join Kadima; Defense minister slams remarks as "pathetic, not deserving of reaction."

Ehud Olmert 311 (photo credit: Pool/Yediot Aharonot)
Ehud Olmert 311
(photo credit: Pool/Yediot Aharonot)
The Bush administration was willing to immediately absorb 100,000 Palestinian refugees as US citizens if a peace deal was reached between Israel and the Palestinians, former prime minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday during a speech at the Geneva Initiative conference in Tel Aviv.
"If we would have reached a peace deal, it would have changed the map of the world and the whole Middle East," Olmert added.
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Ehud Olmert also reacted to controversy caused by the release of portions of a book that is due to be released in which he fiercely attacked Defense Minister Ehud Barak and said "when you write memoirs, there is contemplation about whether to write what really happened or to cut corners in order not to anger."
Olmert said, "over the past two days, stormy winds have been caused over what I wrote in my memoirs that will come out soon."
"I decided to write things exactly as they were without skewing it in one way or another," Olmert added.
A statement released by Barak's media spokesperson responded to Olmert's comments and said that "[Olmert's] pathetic remarks are not deserving of a reaction."
Olmert is still angry at Barak, whose May 2008 press conference in which he demanded Olmert’s resignation due to corruption allegations led to the apparent end of his political career.
“Barak begged me to put him on Kadima’s Knesset list in 2006,” Olmert wrote, according to a source who has seen the book. “He was even willing to be number 21 on the list.”
Olmert also revealed in the book that when he was forming his government, Barak begged him to appoint him defense minister instead of then-Labor leader Amir Peretz, even though Barak was not in politics at the time.
Olmert stressed that he "couldn't write about Kadima without saying who wanted to be in Kadima and who later called it a party of refugees in part because he wasn't accepted in the party."
"I can write about security issues and say who wanted to undertake them and who tried to prevent them using undermining ways. I believe that the truth will win in the end," Olmert added.
Quotes from the book were published Thursday in Yediot Aharonot, whose publishing house is publishing it.
According to the newspaper, Olmert called Barak “a disappointing defense minister,” “an obsessive talker,” “insulting, blunt, and rude,” and “lacking decision- making capability.”
Olmert also said Barak made recommendations on sensitive issues that were irresponsible and accused him of falling asleep in meetings.
A source close to Barak responded by saying that the defense minister “pitied Olmert” because of the multiple corruption charges he is facing and saw his criticism and frustration in that context.
In relation to diplomatic issues, Olmert said that "Netanyahu should do exactly what I did. The talks happened at our initiative, from pressure we put on the Palestinians directly and indirectly."
"If we can reach a framework today for peace with the Palestinians, no issue is more urgent than this. The fact that the current government is starting direct talks with the Palestinians today is something we must welcome and do everything possible to help. I believe the prime minister honestly wants to reach a deal," Olmert added.