Mahmoud Abbas, former Israeli PM Olmert brief reporters

Former PM and PA Chairman make joint statement to journalists hours after Abbas' speech in Security Council.

Mordechai Sones ,

Old friends: Abbas and Olmert in Jerusalem, 2008
Old friends: Abbas and Olmert in Jerusalem, 2008

Despite harsh criticism by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Now the two are holding a brief press conference, sitting side by side.

"I first want to congratulate my friend Ehud Olmert, whom I have known for a while," Abbas said at the outset. "I spoke earlier at the UN Security Council and stressed the importance of reaching peace through negotiations. The American plan alienates international decisions. I met with Olmert a short time ago. The negotiations with him were promising, although we did not come to a solution, we were very close. We are ready to resume negotiations at the point where it ended with Olmert."

He added: "We're ready for a Palestinian state to come next door to the State of Israel in the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem being the capital and West Jerusalem being the capital of Israel. We do not believe in violence and we fight terrorism. We believe in security coordination with all countries, and we have signed many security agreements. We believe only in non-violent popular struggle."

Abbas met with Olmert just hours after his speech in the Security Council on President Trump's Mideast initiative, in which he presented the map published by U.S. President Donald Trump's plan and called it "Swiss cheese". At the end of his speech, he said: "I am striving for peace with every Israeli leader who comes. We will not resort to violence."

In an interview at the Ynet studio earlier this week, Olmert responded to criticism of his planned meeting with Abbas, saying: "He's the only partner we have for peace. There's no reason in the world not to meet him." In that interview, he called Netanyahu "a distressed crook, the head of a crime gang."

At Likud conferences this week, Netanyahu called on Gantz to "disengage from Olmert." According to the Likud Chairman, "Olmert offered Abbas the Western Wall, offered him control of the Temple Mount. He's now gone to Abbas to thwart the Plan of the Century and I say to Benny Gantz - is that your closest advisor?'

In the interview, Olmert said: "I am not a Gantz consultant."

Old friends: Abbas and Olmert, 2008