Olmert: We Come to Annapolis with Joy and Hope

Prime Minister says Annapolis will jump-start negotiations, and that "everything will be on the table."

Gil Ronen,

Olmert at Saban Forum.
Olmert at Saban Forum.

In a Sunday speech about the upcoming Annapolis conference, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he believes that Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are entering a new phase in their relations.

Speaking at the annual Saban Forum at the Jerusalem King David Hotel, Olmert said that everything was on the table: "All of the historical questions that overshadow the argument between us and the Palestinians are on the agenda. We will not evade any one of them."

Olmert repeated his claim that Israel "has a partner" in the form of the current PA leadership. "Mahmoud Abbas… and Salam Fayad… say publicly, without hesitation, despite all of the difficulties it entails, that they want to live in peace with us," he said. "This is an opportunity, we must seize it."

Olmert did not relate to the TV program aired some two weeks ago on Abbas's Ramallah-based TV station which depicts Palestine as replacing the entire State of Israel. Arab Media expert Itamar Marcus noted, "The message they [the PA] have conveyed to their people for years, and continue to convey on the eve of the conference, is that 'Palestine' exists and it replaces all of Israel."

Olmert said that the PA was obliged to fight terror and to change its "interna
"There is a chance that we can reach real accomplishments, maybe even before the end of President Bush's term."
l reality" but added: "We should also remember that the Road Map demands a series of steps by Israel. These, like the Palestinians' commitments, have not yet been implemented."

"We will not waive the Palestinians' obligations, according to the Road Map, and we will not evade carrying out our own, down to the last one," Olmert announced. "Some of them are not comfortable, some will create significant political difficulties, I am aware of that."

Annapolis a 'starting block'
Olmert said Annapolis would not be a venue for negotiations, but would kick-start a negotiation process: "It will provide an international stamp of approval for negotiations on a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians... Annapolis will be the starting block for a continuous, serious, profound negotiation process that will not avoid any issue..."

"If we and the Palestinians act determinedly," he said, "there is a chance that we can reach real accomplishments, maybe even before the end of President Bush's term."

His body language exuding conviction, Olmert said: "I am excited with the opportunity to contribute to an opportunity. I know all the excuses and reasons for saying 'no,' but I feel in the depth of my heart that it is time! This is the spirit with which we approach Annapolis... We come with good will, joy and hope."  

Protesters carry torches
1,500 people marched Sunday evening from the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem to the King David hotel, to protest the meeting there between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Quartet envoy Tony Blair and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The protesters said the three were discussing a "declaration of principles" that included a return to pre-1967 borders and the redivision of Jerusalem. They carried torches and signs that called Mahmoud Abbas "Abu Bluff."