Olmert: ‘Forget Greater Israel’
Olmert: ‘Forget Greater Israel’

"The notion of a Greater Israel no longer exists, and anyone who still believes in it is deluding themselves," said Ehud Olmert, in what is likely to be his last cabinet meeting as Prime Minister.

"Forty years after the Six Day War ended, we keep finding excuses not to act. This isn't doing Israel any good,” said Olmert to the members of his cabinet.

Olmert warned that unless Israel gives up more land, it will face pressure from overseas to grant all PA Arabs citizenship in a single state of two nationalities. “The international community in starting to view Israel as a future binational state. We can prove that we have been more creative than the other side through the years, and that they have been more obstinate, but as usual, we will win the debate by not losing sight of what's really important.”

The Prime Minister warned that “time is not on Israel’s side, not because our cause isn’t just, but because time has its own repercussions.” Olmert did not specify what those repercussions were, nor did he explain why he believed that Israel was incapable of dealing with them.

Olmert was once known as a hawkish politician reluctant to give up land.  "I admit – this hasn’t always been my position. In the past I've said that what he agreed to in Camp David was wrong.” Olmert he confessed in the meeting that he used to believe in a Greater Israel.

Olmert referred to Judea and Samaria, the heartland of Biblical Israel, as “a hill here or there.”

"I used to believe that everything from the Jordan Riverbank to the Mediterranean Sea was ours. After all, dig anywhere and you'll find Jewish history. But eventually, after great internal conflict, I've realized we have to share this land with the people who dwell here – that is if we don’t want to be a binational state," said Olmert.

The Prime Minister called to attention the strength of Israel, and refuted the notion that a smaller Israel, created by withdrawal from Jewish land liberated in 1967, would increase the threat to Israel’s security.

"No other nation is as strong and no other nation in the Middle East can rival us. The strategic threats we face have nothing to do with where we draw our borders.

"We can argue about every single detail, but when we finally hash out an agreement we may find we no longer have the international community's backing, or a partner for that matter. We'll be left with nothing but the feeling that once again, as for the past 40 years, we were right.”

Olmert continued that it would be better off dealing with the threats that he admits will exist “across the security fence” than “cementing the notion of a binational state in the international community's mind," hinting at his support for total withdrawal to west of the fence, as well as his belief that the international community has the power to decide Israel’s future.

Olmert referred to Judea and Samaria, the heartland of Biblical Israel, as “a hill here or there.”

“We have to ask ourselves is losing a hill here or there, is worth forfeiting the chance to achieve something. This is why I say that this is the time to discuss the evacuation-compensation . We have to keep pushing it, and eventually bring it before the government,” he noted, referring to a proposal put forth by Chaim Ramon, former Minister of Justice and current Vice-Premier.

Olmert’s comments to the cabinet came after heated discussion on Ramon’s bill, in which the government would offer Israeli families living in Judea and Samaria 1.1 million NIS to abandon their houses and live elsewhere in Israel. Ramon, now Minister-Without-Portfolio with responsibility for state policy, resigned three months after being appointed by Olmert as Minister of Justice in 2006 following his indictment on charges of sexual assault.

The Prime Minister felt confident that sooner or later every Israeli will come around to share this view.

“A day will come, probably sooner than some are willing to admit, that all of us will be willing to embrace the same solutions that some of us are rejecting right now.”