A Conversation With Ehud Olmert

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By Lally Weymouth
Sunday, May 11, 2008

W ith serious criminal charges reportedly pending against him, Ehud Olmert admitted that he was giving some thought to the ramifications of stepping down as Israel's prime minister. In a lengthy interview last week with Newsweek-Washington Post's Lally Weymouth in his Jerusalem office, Olmert also spoke of his hopes for achieving peace with the Palestinians and the Syrians and about the current crisis in the Gaza Strip. Excerpts:

Q. What did you and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talk about during her visit here last week?

A. We talked about the ongoing discussions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, about the possibility of having an understanding that will lead to the realization of President Bush's vision -- the two-state solution.

Do you and she think [a peace agreement with the Palestinians] is possible? Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly said when he recently left Washington that he was very disappointed.

I don't want to comment about statements made by Dr. Abbas. My discussions with Condoleezza Rice are serious and in general optimistic that peace can happen -- that the distance between us and the Palestinians is not such that it can't be bridged.

So do you still believe that there can be a declaration of principles or an agreement with the Palestinians [by year's end]?

A more detailed and accurate outline of how a solution of the two states should look.

Does that include Jerusalem and the difficult issues (borders, refugees)?

Some of the issues will be discussed later by agreement. The future of Jerusalem is one of them. It is probably going to be the last issue.

It will not be resolved by you and Abbas?

Maybe yes, but in a later stage.

In Annapolis, didn't you, President Bush and President Abbas talk about concluding a statement of principles or a framework agreement by the end of this year?


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