I want to separate from the Palestinians. I want them to have their independent, separate state on a contiguous territory and I want Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state in its own territory.
Excerpts from interview by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to the Financial Times and London Independent
prior to the prime minister’s visit to Europe
* The realignment plan:
We need to separate from the Palestinians into boundaries that can be defensible. Now, whether technically it will be called permanent or not permanent, if these boundaries will be satisfactory if they will be protected by the fence, if the international community will recognize Israel’s right to have such boundaries, will appreciate at the same time that separation from the Palestinians and creation of a contiguous Palestinian territory in which a Palestinian state can be created, if all this will happen the basic objective will have been achieved. And that’s what I have in mind.
I want to separate from the Palestinians. I want them to have their independent, separate state on a contiguous territory and I want Israel to exist of course as a Jewish state in its own territory, as an independent state in its own territory. The Palestinian state, the Israeli state – separate. This is my dream. If we can negotiate specific borders that can be acceptable to achieve peace, better. That is why always I prefer an agreement and negotiations.
If, as appears at this time, there won’t be negotiations because the Palestinians are not ready, because they are not prepared to assume responsibility, because the extremist fundamentalist, religious radical government of Hamas is not prepared and Abu Mazen is too weak, then I’ll try and discuss this issue with the international community. I don’t have a specific border in mind.
I believe this is desire is shared by most nations of the world that care about what happens in the Middle East, and they want us and the Palestinians to settle it. I’m sure most of them want Israel to live in security in our country and not to be jeopardized by any future development. I am sure that they all want the Palestinians to have their own independent and contiguous territory where they can establish their state. So there are many basic premises that are shared by all of us. The rest depends on circumstances, on negotiations and discussion.
If the Palestinians will be ready, again, I’d more than be happy to negotiate with them because I want to have another side accountable, with a clear address, that I can charge with responsibility for events that may take place in the future. But if they don’t come, if they are not ready, if all of us agree that they are not ready, what are we going to do? Wait forever? Waiting is the worst. It’s playing into the hands of the extremists who don’t want any development and are ready to sacrifice with blood and terror. I am not playing into the hands of the extremists. If they will not allow the more moderate Palestinians to take over and assume responsibility, then I will move forward.
But I will move forward after talking to Tony Blair and to Jacques Chirac and to George W. Bush and to others and trying to prepare a framework that appears to me reasonable to the international community. At any given time in the future when the Palestinians will be able to meet their requirements posed by the international community, then we will continue to talk.
It does not preclude any future negotiations with Palestinians. It will perhaps only reduce the scope of differences because if Israel pulls out from a large part of the population or of the territories, then much less will be left for any possible future discussions between us and the Palestinians. But at the same time it’s also true that if they will not come and if we will withdraw to certain lines and if we will separate this with a big fence as we intend to do and that will be the practical border separating us from the Palestinians, it may last for many years. I don’t know.
When we will conclude these negotiations we will outline the exact framework of this political plan and it will be submitted for approval in the party or in the Knesset or in the cabinet and of course we will discuss it openly. We are not going to hide anything from anyone. We are going to share it with the public opinion and precisely for this reason because we want the public opinion to join in supporting it and to give us the necessary moral foundation for what we want to achieve.
* Palestinian humanitarian and economic needs:
We will do everything in our power to assist the Palestinians to cope with the humanitarian needs in the territories irrespective of any formal obligations of one type or another. We will make sure that there will not be any humanitarian disaster in the territories. That’s because we don’t want one child in any Palestinian place to suffer from the intransigence and the recklessness and the lack of responsibility by this leadership. At the same time, I have to say, knowing that all the basic foods are in abundance in Gaza that they have all the ingredients that they need for another three, four months. To say that there is a humanitarian crisis already is a gross exaggeration which I don’t have to accept. But I’ll do everything that I can to help them cope with whatever humanitarian demands there may be.
If the Palestinian administration will collapse as a result of their own inadequacies and failures, why will it become almost automatic that the responsibility of providing services will be Israeli? We want to separate from them. We are only helping them because the international community prefers these arrangements and we want to help them. We are ready to assist, we are ready to cooperate, we are ready to provide services, but we are not responsible for the failures of the Palestinian government and the extremists that dominate them to do what needs to be done for them.
* Letter of the Palestinian prisoners:
They don’t even mention the State of Israel, they don’t even refer to the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, and they insist on the right of return which is the almost automatic, outright destruction of the State of Israel. So why should I accept something that challenges the very fundamental principles of Israel’s existence to become a basis for some improvement? The referendum is an internal game between one faction and the other. It is meaningless in terms of the broad picture of chances towards some kind of dialogue between us and the Palestinians.