Deputy Prime Minister Chaim Ramon urged the government Friday to join Fatah PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in his drive to move immediately to final status talks.
“I believe right now we have a partner. I don’t know for how long, so we must move quickly,” said Ramon in an interview on Voice of Israel government radio. The former Justice Minister is one of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s closest allies in the cabinet.
Abbas has raised the issue of final status talks in every one of his meetings with Olmert over the past year, but the Prime Minister has side-stepped the issue.
“We have been very clear that we are not willing to discuss at this stage the three core issues of borders, refugees and Jerusalem,” said Miri Eisen, spokesperson for the Prime Minister last week.
Now his Number Two is bluntly saying there is no choice but to do precisely that - and fast. He also recommended the deployment of NATO forces as IDF troops are withdrawn from each area.
Ramon’s vision of the final agreement, he said, includes withdrawal from most of Judea and Samaria. “In my eyes, the occupation of the territories threatens our very existence, our legitimacy and our international standing,” he said.
The deputy prime minister maintained that Abbas and his Prime Minister/Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, are the first PA leaders with whom Israel can talk and come to a bilateral agreement.
He stopped short of giving specific details of how much land he would hand over to the PA, however.
Abbas reiterated this week that he is ready and willing to finalize a final status agreement by next fall.