Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Jericho, 2007. Photo by GPO
Text size

Israel and the Palestinian mustn't miss a crucial opportunity for peace, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a New York Times op-ed on Wednesday, adding that an inability to strike a compromise could lead the Mideast to renewed violence that would make a future peace deal unlikely.

Olmert's article came ahead of a much-anticipated United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood, one to which both Israel and the United States object, claiming that a recognition of a Palestinian state outside of peace negotiations would be an "unproductive" unilateral move.

Writing in the New York Times on Wednesday, the former premier urged both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to work through their differences, saying: "The time for true leadership has come."

"Leadership is tested not by one’s capacity to survive politically but by the ability to make tough decisions in trying times," Olmert wrote, adding that the "window of opportunity" for peace was limited.

"Israel will not always find itself sitting across the table from Palestinian leaders like Mr. Abbas and the [Palestinian] prime minister, Salam Fayyad, who object to terrorism and want peace. Indeed, future Palestinian leaders might abandon the idea of two states and seek a one-state solution, making reconciliation impossible," Olmert wrote.

Reiterating the urgency of striking a deal that would end the Mideast conflict, the former prime minister said: "Now is the time. There will be no better one. I hope that Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas will meet the challenge."

"In the worst-case scenario, chaos and violence could erupt, making the possibility of an agreement even more distant, if not impossible. If that happens, peace will definitely not be the outcome," Olmert wrote.

The former prime minister also wrote in his New York Times piece that he felt such a deal could be achieved, based on past negotiations he himself had led alongside the Palestinian leadership.

Citing a much-discussed 2008 peace offer, Olmert said he had offered Abbas a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, with land swaps, and a plan to share Jerusalem as capital for both Israel and Palestine.

"These parameters were never formally rejected by Mr. Abbas, and they should be put on the table again today. Both Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu must then make brave and difficult decisions," Olmert said, adding: "We Israelis simply do not have the luxury of spending more time postponing a solution. A further delay will only help extremists on both sides who seek to sabotage any prospect of a peaceful, negotiated two-state solution."