After the opening of the Annapolis Conference, PM Ehud Olmert was interviewed on the American media.
From interview with PM Ehud Olmert on NPR – Nov 27, 2007
What exactly we will agree with the Palestinians remains to be seen. I believe that if we are serious in our mutual attempt to make peace, that will require painful compromises from both sides – the Palestinians and the Israelis. And if we reach that stage, and if we will make an agreement, then of course I will come to the Israeli public and I will share with the Israeli public everything, because Israel is a democracy.
We are prepared to make a territorial compromise, even a painful territorial compromise. Exactly what shape it will take, what will be the exact borders and so on – this is something we have to leave for negotiations, and this is too early to say.
At the end of the day, Gaza will have to be part, not only of the agreement, but also of the implementation. In other words, if everything is subject to the implementation of the Roadmap commitments, then the implementation of the Roadmap commitments with regard to Gaza means that Gaza will have to be terror-free, and that will be incumbent on the Palestinians to carry out.
We are first going to negotiate the political horizons, the essential elements that may help create a two-state solution. Implementation will be subject to the implementation of the Roadmap commitments. We are not trying to suggest that it can be done within a week or within a year, but you have to start somewhere. And we are committed, absolutely, to help start it. We don’t want to waste time; we don’t want to gain time; we want to move forward.
I started to talk with President Abbas a few months ago on a regular basis – very interesting, very revealing discussions which led us into what happened today. This is a landmark; this is not an end of the process. We made a commitment today to carry on these negotiations on a regular basis, continuously, in order to try and reach an agreement within a year. I don’t know that we will succeed to do it, but we will definitely and seriously and genuinely try.
Israel is committed to peace. Israel is prepared for a compromise. The majority of Israelis understand this compromise will be serious, will be meaningful, and will be painful. And our desire for peace and the end of terror and the build-up of new relationships with our neighbors is so fundamental in the hearts of Israelis that we are ready to go a long way in order to achieve it.
From interview with PM Ehud Olmert on PBS Online Newshour – Nov 27, 2007
The most fundamental difference today is that there is a different type of relationship between the leadership of the Palestinians and the Israelis. There is a greater trust. That in itself is not sufficient, but it’s a very good foundation upon which you can build meaningful negotiations.
The goal of these negotiations is to reach a two-state solution, that there will be a Palestinian state – viable, strong, democratic – with all the necessary ingredients that will make life so much better for the Palestinians. We already removed checkpoints and roadblocks, and we will continue to do it, of course, all depending on whether the Palestinians will be capable of effectively fighting terror. If they will effectively fight terror, as we hope they will, then everything will change. There is a different Palestinian leadership today, which is committed to fight terror. They say they are making the necessary preparations now to move towards it.
We aren’t building new settlements in the territories, and we are not going to confiscate any land in order to build settlements. That is part of the negotiating agenda. We are going to sit with the Palestinians and discuss the necessary accommodations in order to allow them to have a Palestinian state and for Israel to contribute to this.
The whole idea is of a two-state solution, which means a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people and the state of Israel, which is the homeland of the Jewish people. No one seriously can think that there will be two states, one Palestinian and one in which the Palestinians will become a majority, if all the Palestinians will be brought back into the State of Israel. So the idea is to have two nation-states separated, living alongside each other. The State of Israel will be Jewish and, of course, as it is. And the Palestinian state will be the natural place for all the refugees of the Palestinians to be resettled in.
There are differences, but there is a basis for talk. There is a basis for understanding, and I believe that there is a basis for compromise.
There are genuine fears in the State of Israel based on the past experiences we had with the Palestinians. We made concessions in the past, and they didn’t necessarily help. We pulled out from Gaza entirely, and they keep shooting some rockets on tens of thousands of Israelis living in the south part of Israel. So there is risk-taking here. There are uncertainties which we will have to deal with. My conviction is that Israel is strong enough to try carefully to move forward in spite of these risks.
But, of course, we will not compromise on the security of the people of Israel. No one can expect Israel to do it. I don’t believe that any country in the world would have acted in the same kind of restraint as we do now, when we have these Kassam rockets falling on the heads of civilians in the south part of Israel. And we restrain our reactions, but we will not compromise on the security of the people of Israel. That I can guarantee you.