Abbas, Olmert call for 2 states at J Street conference

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, right, and former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, meet in New York in 2020 (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)

The failed Israeli-Palestinian peace attempt in 2008 would have succeeded if it had been given more time, said former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who came closer than any Israeli leader to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

He and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas would had succeeded if they had a few more years, Olmert told viewers of the J Street Conference on Sunday, the first in a two-day virtual gathering of the liberal pro-Israel organization. Among the speakers was Abbas.

Olmert resigned in 2008 under a cloud of corruption and eventually served jail time. He was succeeded as prime minister by Benjamin Netanyahu, a critic of Olmert’s peace moves.

Since then, the peace process has languished. Olmert said in any future negotiations, the two sides must meet as equals.

“We need to agree that a Palestinian state will be established on the basis of the ‘67 borders,” with land swaps that will allow Israel to annex the heavily settled Etzion Bloc.

East Jerusalem will serve as the capital of the Palestinian state. What Olmert referred to as the “Holy Basin” around the Temple Mount will be overseen by an “international trust,” composed of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and the United States.

“I am a firm believer that even today, if the two sides will sit together, we can resolve this conflict on that basis,” Olmert said in recorded remarks.

“I urge Abbas to say he’s willing to enter negotiations on that framework.”

Abbas, in recorded remarks, asked the J Street audience to encourage the Biden administration to rescind a 1987 law that brands the Palestine Liberation Organization a terror group. That would be one step in restoring relations between the United States and the Palestinian Authority that ruptured during the previous U.S. administration.

He said that “dialogue and negotiations are the sole path” to a sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

He painted a dire picture of the occupation: “The growing Israeli military machinery continued to oppress our people and protect Israeli settlers, who daily commit violent and extremist acts against unarmed Palestinian civilians. Backed up by the Israeli military authorities, settlers are constantly empowered to steal Palestinian territory and build more settlements,” Abbas said.

He denounced what he called the “apartheid,” “oppressive and illegal regime in occupied Palestine,” but said, “We believe in the two-state solution based on pre-June 1967 borders based on international law” with “East Jerusalem as its capital.”

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