"Don’t tell me there is no partner. There is a partner. (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) wants peace with Israel," former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said during a J Street gala dinner on Monday.
The former Israeli premier said Abbas was against terror during the Yasser Arafat era and was in favor of peace negotiations during Ariel Sharon’s tenure as prime minister, as well as during his own.
"It may not be the same peace we want, but that’s why we negotiate," he said, but added "when we try to look at the entire picture, no one should relieve the Palestinians from their responsibilities."
Olmert criticized current Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu over the stalled peace process, saying that any future peace agreement with the Palestinians will be based on what he had offered to Abbas in 2008 – a return to the pre-1967 borders with land swaps. There is no alternative to this solution, Olmert claimed.
The former PM, who faces a series of indictments and court hearings on charges of bribery and abusing public trust, rejected the Netanyahu government’s demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and reiterated his proposal for dividing Jerusalem.
He said the capital should be divided in such a way that Israel would maintain control over its Jewish neighborhoods, the Palestinians would control the Arab areas, while the so-called "Holy Basin" – which includes the area of the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion and a variety of Christian holy sites – would be administered by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Palestinians, Israel and the US.
Turning his attention to the Iranian threat, Olmert said Israel must allow the world’s superpowers to lead the campaign against Tehran’s nuclear program, but stressed that Israel must not relinquish any option and ought to build capacities to deal with the situation in the event that "we’ll have to secure the existence of the state of Israel – as a last resort, not the first one."