Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spent the afternoon Tuesday, in his home in Motza near Jerusalem, receiving a stream of calls and flower bouquets congratulating him on his acquittals earlier that day. One of the more interesting of these congratulations was a phone call from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian leader, who has been avoiding meeting and talking with the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, congratulated Olmert in his acquittal and wished him the best of luck in the future.
When Olmert was prime minister, he held intensive negotiations with Abbas, starting with the Annapolis Peace Summit in November 2007. During 2008, after the Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs broke, Olmert presented Abbas with a proposal for a peace agreement covering all the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Olmert suggested that Israel pull out of 94 percent of the West Bank, compensating the Palestinians with land in place of the remaining 6 percent. In addition, Olmert suggested that the Jerusalem's Old City be administrated by an international committee, as well as, the reabsorbing of 5,000 Palestinian refugees into Israel as a humanitarian gesture.
In her memoirs, then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote that she was surprised by the courage Olmert exhibited in pursuing the peace process. After meeting with Olmert in Jerusalem and hearing firsthand the proposal he presented Abbas, she called national security advisor Steve Hadley and told him: "Tell the president that he is right about Olmert, wants an agreement. And as a matter of fact, he could die trying to reach an agreement. Rabin was murdered after offering much less."
Abbas didn't respond to Olmert's proposal, instead he presented him in September 2008 with a document listing clarifications. In a May 2009 interview to the Washington Post, Abbas said that despite the understandings he reached with Olmert, "The differences were still great." In an interview to Channel 2 that aired several days ago Abbas denied this, claiming that he and Olmert actually did reach many understandings.
Rice wrote in her memoirs that she pressed then President George W. Bush to pressure Olmert and Abbas to put what they agreed on to writing in order to solidify the agreement further. But Abbas refused to do so because Olmert had already resigned and was on his way out of the political system.
Besides Abbas, Olmert received calls from several Israeli ministers – including some from the Likud – that congratulated him for his acquittal. In addition some foreign ambassadors called conveying messages from their countries' leaders, some even asked to hold meetings in the immediate future.
In a press conference he held in the Jerusalem court after the sentence was given, Olmert said that in the next few days he plans to address the issue of his indictment and acquittal extensively and present the press with his side of the story.
It is possible that Olmert's version of the story will be heard very soon. On Thursday, Olmert will arrive at The Institute for Nation Security Studies to give a talk in a conference about the Second Lebanese War. Presumably, in addition to dealing with the decision making process that led to the war in the summer of 2006, he will also discuss his trial.
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