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Speaking at the special Knesset session yesterday to commemorate the UN partition plan's 60th anniversary, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert lauded Israel's decision to accept the plan. His chief opponent, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, criticized Olmert for saying earlier that Israel's survival depended on reaching a peace settlement.

"I was amazed to hear that the prime minister told the press that Israel was done for, unless it reached a two-state solution," Netanyahu said, in reference to Olmert's comments to Haaretz last week. "Mr. Prime Minister, Israel will never be done for. We and on one else will determine our own fate. Our survival is not conditioned upon the Palestinians' willingness to make peace with us."

At the ceremony commemorating the the 1947 United Nations decision to partition British-mandate Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state, Olmert said that Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, made the right decision in agreeing to partition. "My father opposed partition and was wrong," Olmert said. "Ben-Gurion was right - there was a need to accept the possible.

"The choice, both 60 years ago and today, is between a Jewish state on part of the Land of Israel, and a binational state on all of the Land of Israel," the prime minister continued. "That is the choice we are faced with today - the existence of two nation-states, Israel and Palestine, in the Land of Israel."

Olmert stressed that he would do everything to accomplish a peace accord.

"I don't underestimate the difficulties, I don't diminish the threats, and I will never compromise on Israel's security," he said. "But as long as there remains even a chance of peace, I will exhaust it fully." "

Arab MKs boycotted the session celebrating the occasion. Only one Arab MK, Nadia Hilou of Labor, decided to attend the session. Her fellow party member, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadele, did not stay.

More than a third of MKs were absent during the session, including Kadima MK Ruhama Avraham, who is the minister charged with organizing Israel's 60th Independence Day celebrations in the spring, and Communications Minister Ariel Atias of Shas.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said she was "proud of where Israel is today," and noted that the Jewish leadership in Palestine had readily accepted the UN partition as opposed to its neighboring Arab states. "Do not lament Israel's establishment," she said. "Establish your own country, rejoice in it and we will rejoice with you."

She said she was "sorry that the Arab world rejected the partition, but I hope and pray that today there is an understanding that instead of fighting, the right thing is to build a joint future in two separate states."