Former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert has said he does not want to live in a "racist state which controls millions of Palestinians through oppression and racism but does not grant them any civil or human rights, or the right to vote." He told an audience in Washington DC that his country must realise that "this is the moment for peace", not least because Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is ready to discuss a sustainable peace agreement. "He might not be part of the future leadership," said Olmert, "and not making peace now could be a big mistake which will lead to disastrous consequences for Israel."
In a symposium organised for him by the Woodrow Wilson Institute, Mr Olmert condemned the insistence of successive Israeli governments to deny the right of Palestinians to establish their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. "I was mayor for ten years and I tell you frankly, there was no US president in Jerusalem who recognised the city as the capital of Israel, and there won't be until peace is achieved and an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital has been established." Olmert criticised himself for sticking to the principles and practice of occupation even though he "changed" his position later.
Stressing repeatedly that "Mahmoud Abbas is a peace partner and a tool to combat terrorism", the ex-prime minister noted that "Abu Mazen is the second man after Yasser Arafat". The Palestinians, he pointed out, "can open the way for Israel to build normal relations with all Arab countries as well as Turkey."
Olmert ridiculed those who insist that "abandoning" the hills of the West Bank would open Israel to threats from Palestinian rockets. "They can launch rockets from their existing sites if they want to but they choose not to because they know how severe the response would be," he countered.
Although he believes that Israel won its war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 and against Hamas in Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), Olmert warned that sustaining the current situation is not possible in the long-term. "At the end of the day, those that we have been ruling with no rights for 46 years will be able to gain their political rights and establish their own state where they become the majority."