Speaking to an audience of thousands of Jews and supporters of Israel in New York Sunday morning – in front of a crowd shouting both cheers and jeers – former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that he supported the “new politics” represented by both Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett. Their way of doing things “deserved to be strengthened,” although he had no desire to run for office again.
With that, Olmert reiterated his long-standing policy of a major Israeli withdrawal from much of Judea and Samaria, saying that recent declarations by Binyamin Netanyahu showed that the Prime Minister concurred with his opinions. “I am the realistic one,” Olmert said. “Bibi is saying today what I was saying then.” Israel, he said, could not continue “to rule over a million people without giving them democratic rights” without becoming internationally isolated. “In order to preserve Israel we must renew dialog with the Palestinians,” he said.
The comments received a mixed reception, with some cheering Olmert on, applauding and shouting positive comments, with others booing him and calling for him to leave the stage.
Olmert said that it was not his intention to criticize Netanyahu. With that, he said that he supported the supplanting of traditional policy stances represented by Lapid and Bennett. “We hope that their energetic spirit will influence others in the government,” Olmert said.
Olmert said that Israel's strategic position today was “one of the best in recent years,” and that it was unlikely that Israel would have to go to war in the near future. “Some of the Arab countries now relate to Israel differently,” Olmert added, saying that his also contributed to Israel's improving position.
Olmert was speaking at a policy conference organized by The Jerusalem Post in New York. A report said that New York police had arrested a man who attempted to bring a sharp knife into the room where Olmert was speaking. The man tried to avoid security by was stopped by guards and police before he was able to enter the room.