Olmert claims he was closer to peace than ever

Thursday, February 26, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

Desperate to secure some kind of positive political legacy, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claimed on Wednesday that he had brought Israel closer than ever to peace with the Palestinians and the wider Arab world.

"I was within a whisker of an agreement with the Palestinians," Olmert said during a tour of brewery in the southern coastal town of Ashkelon.

Olmert urged the next government to "act quickly and make fateful decisions" so that Israel can finally move beyond the conflict and fully realize its potential.

Many Israelis, including the residents of Ashkelon, would probably disagree with Olmert's assertion, pointing to the ongoing and often escalating rocket attacks that target the coastal town and many neighboring communities.

Fateful decisions that Olmert helped make, such as the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, are credited with creating the current security situation in southern Israel, a situation that threatens to extend to Israel's populous central region in the near future.

In an interview with Israel's Channel 2 News on Wednesday night, Olmert further revealed that he was perhaps less than a day away from holding unprecedented face-to-face negotiations with the Syrian leadership before the recent Gaza war broke out.

Olmert previously indicated that he was prepared to surrender the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria.

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