Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took advantage of the memorial ceremony commemorating 33 years since the death of Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to outline his new political agenda for peace with the Palestinians. The speech came at the conclusion of a ceremonial cabinet meeting held at the Sde Boker Institute in the Negev where the cabinet approved a $400 million plan to strengthen the Negev.
Olmert’s speech was political in nature and addressed the need for the Palestinians to establish a stable government in order to move forward. “If a new Palestinian government is established – a government which will be committed to the principles of the Quartet, implement the Roadmap and bring about the release of Gilad Shalit, I will invite Abu-Mazen to meet with me immediately, in order to conduct a real, open, genuine and serious dialogue between us. In the framework of this dialogue, and in accordance with the Roadmap, you will be able to establish an independent and viable Palestinian State, with territorial contiguity in Judea and Samaria – a State with full sovereignty and defined borders,” he said.
Olmert added that the Palestinian people are standing at the cusp of a historical junction. “The terror, violence, murders and incessant attacks against the citizens of Israel are liable to lead us closer to a new and painful wave of terrible violence. The uncompromising radicalism of your terror organizations did not bring you closer to attaining the goal which I am convinced many of you share – the establishment of a Palestinian state, which will guarantee you a future of prosperity and which will exist in good neighborly relations side-by-side with the State of Israel,” Olmert said
Referring to the current fragile ceasefire, Olmert said that the process actually started on Sunday. “We embarked on this path – and I hope that it will lead us forward towards the goal we all aspire to – peace, tranquility and mutual trust. We are ready and willing to pursue this path, and persevere until we reach the sought-after solution.”
Olmert then suggested renewing the negotiations with a Palestinian government which will accept the conditions set by the Quartet and said that “in this framework, the borders of the State of Israel will be defined, in accordance with President Bush's April 14th, 2004 letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.” He said that these borders will be different from the territories currently under Israel's control.
On the issue of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, Olmert declared that when he is released and returned to his family, Israel will be willing to release numerous Palestinian prisoners in return.
Olmert also promised to significantly diminish the number of roadblocks, increase freedom of movement in the territories, facilitate movement of people and goods in both directions, improve the operation of the border crossings to the Gaza Strip, and release Palestinian funds for the purpose of alleviating their humanitarian hardship.