Former PM Ehud Olmert: No Reason for Israel to Oppose Palestinian Bid at UN

Breaking ranks with official policy, former premier says Palestinians' UN move 'lays the foundation for the idea of a two-state solution.'

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has broken ranks with official policy by saying that he sees “no reason to oppose” the Palestinian bid for UN recognition. Olmert says that the General Assembly decision, expected on Thursday, “lays the foundation for the idea” of a two-state solution.

“I believe that the Palestinian requestis congruent with the basic concept of the two-state solution,” Olmert wrote Hebrew University Professor Bernard Avishai in a post published on the Daily Beast's Open Zion blog. “Therefore, I see no reason to oppose it.”

Olmert, who has yet to completely dispel speculation that he may run as a candidate for prime minister in the upcoming January 22 elections, said that in the wake of the UN decision “we in Israel will have to engage in a serious process of negotiations, in order to agree on specific borders based on the 1967 lines, and resolve the other issues.”

Olmert said that Israel must “give a hand to and encourage the moderate forces amongst the Palestinians. [Mahmoud Abbas] and Salam Fayyad need our help. It’s time to give it.”

As prime minister, Olmert and Abbas negotiated a peace deal based on Olmert’s offer that Israel return modified 1967 borders, but Abbas did not respond to the plan.

Olmert’s position is sure to be criticized by government officials and right-wing politicians – which may be just want Olmert had in mind. By expressing support for the Palestinian move, Olmert appears to be outflanking other centrist Israeli leaders such as former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who announced on Tuesday that she was forming a new party, as well as Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich.

According to sources familiar with Olmert’s discussions with other Israeli politicians, he is expected to announce his plans by the end of the week. In the meantime, according to media reports, Olmert has agreed to serve on a committee set up by his former Kadima party committee charged with selecting the party’s Knesset list.

Michal Fattal