Olmert's Speech Angers Many, Even in Kadima

"How can it be that the Prime Minister, the leader of our party, talks about a new broad diplomatic plan without even consulting with his own party members?" So say at least two Kadima members.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 14:50

The NFC Hebrew website reports on two Kadima Knesset Members who have scathing criticism for their party leader and Prime Minister. "Because there's a ceasefire for a day and a half, we have to go and promise a Palestinian state and the release of terrorist prisoners?" rails one of them, preferring to remain anonymous.

Another Kadima MK said he categorically opposes Olmert's plan as it was articulated yesterday, noting that other MKs feel the same way.

Olmert said the Arab side must give up its demands for the 'right of return' of millions of Arabs to Israel - but this followed a list of far-reaching Israeli concessions that he offered. The Prime Minister said that in exchange for an end to terrorism, the formation of a Quartet-approved government, and the release of Gilad Shalit, the Palestinian Authority would achieve a contiguous and independent state, the release of "many" terrorists, and the "evacuation of many territories and communities that were established therein."

Arab spokesmen refused Olmert's demand to give up the 'right of return.' Hamas deputy leader Abu Marzouk, based in Damascus, said, "We reject any deal that does not recognize the right of return... The Palestinian people will never give up this sacred right. Our people have been fighting for 58 years to achieve the right of return for all those who were expelled from their homeland."

Hamas spokesman Razi Hamad that Olmert is "trying to bypass the core of the Palestinian cause, namely the right of return for the refugees."

MK Tzvi Hendel, of the National Union party, was disgusted by Olmert's offer to destroy more Jewish communities. "I have no expectations," he said, "from a man who is so devoid of morality that in the middle of a terrorism war, and amidst threats of murderous terrorism from every direction, he is not embarrassed to promise the enemy the expulsion of the residents and the establishment of a terror state."

Hendel said he expects Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Eli Yishai (Shas) "not to betray their voters, and to immediately quit the Olmert government."

Speaking at a memorial to David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, Olmert said he believes Ben-Gurion would have supported his plan - but MK Gilad Erdan of the Likud said it is more likely that Ben-Gurion is actually turning over in his grave "at the military and diplomatic blindness shown by the Prime Minister."

MK Erdan said that Olmert "continues to ignore the warnings of the security leaders, choosing instead to deal with withdrawals and retreats instead of strengthening Israel's strength and deterrence power."

MK Yuval Shteinitz (Likud), a former Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, condemned Olmert for offering to make an agreement with a group that has broken all agreements in the past. "The speech symbolizes the end of Israel's determination to fight terrorism," said Shteinitz, a former left-wing professor. "Olmert promises land to Hamas, which has murderously violated all the previous agreements and truces without changing its principles and charter."

On the other hand, far-left Meretz MK Chaim Oron said, "Finally, the mantra that 'we have no partner' has been replaced. The Government of Israel must act to strengthen the PA's national unity government that will arise and conduct a real dialogue towards a permanent arrangement that will bring an end to the cycle of bloodshed in our region." Internal PA negotiations for a unity government have been stuck for months.

The Labor Party welcomed Olmert's speech. Faction whip MK Yoram Marciano said, "Labor supports Olmert's diplomatic initiative and peace moves, as they were expressed [in his speech]... In response, the Palestinian Authority must stretch out its arm in peace and lay down its arms in order to create a life of hope and peace between the two nations."