Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday said that a final status peace agreement could have been signed in the last two years if not for the Palestinian leadership's unwillingness to compromise.
In his final regular cabinet meeting, Olmert stated that his government was "ready to sign a peace agreement; the Palestinians, to my regret, did not have the courage to do so."
The prime minister noted that he had offered a near-full withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, a tunnel or bridge connecting those areas to Gaza, and the surrender of all Arab-dominated neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
On Monday a top aide to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas responded by telling French news agency AFP that Olmert had never offered an acceptable peace proposal because he never agreed to meet all Palestinian demands in full.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh said that what the world has labeled the "moderate and pragmatic" regime of Mahmoud Abbas will accept nothing less than the full surrender of Judea and Samaria, including all of eastern Jerusalem, Jewish neighborhoods included.
Olmert looked to preempt Rudaineh when he closed his cabinet speech by insisting that all Palestinian complaining about percentages and miniscule scraps of land were "excuses and attempts to divert attention from the main issue."
He did not elaborate, but many Israelis have begun to speculate that the Palestinians may not want peace at all after having turned down several offers over the years that could have gone a long way toward ending the conflict.
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