Photo Credit: Channel 12 News video
Ehud Olmert in New York, Feb. 10, 2020

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, News 12. reported. The two are expected to discuss President Trump’s peace plan. The meeting has been heavily criticized in Israel and Olmert has been accused of helping Abbas in his fight against the “deal of the century.”

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But Olmert told Channel 12 News on Monday night that he intended to formally endorse Trump’s peace efforts, adding: “I want to mention that Abu Mazen (Abbas’s nom de guerre) is the only Palestinian leader who fights terrorism and opposes terrorism – so he’s the one we should talk to.”

Of course, the Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund, Abbas’s favorite government program which he occasionally finances at the expense of non-murderous PA employees’ salaries, pays a monthly cash stipend to the families of terrorists killed, injured or imprisoned for involvement in murdering, assisting in murdering, or planning to murder Israelis, or for other types of politically inspired violence, including riots, violent demonstrations, and throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at innocent Israeli civilians. In addition, the fund provides pocket-money to all Arab terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails. In 2016, the PA paid out about 1.1 billion shekel ($303 million) in stipends and other benefits to the families of so-called “martyrs.”

“This is one of many meetings I’ve had with the PA chairman,” Olmert told Channel 12. “I didn’t come to the United States to fight President Trump or his plan. The president is very friendly to Israel and I appreciate it very much. I also do not intend to wage a fight against the Israeli government in the US.”

The former prime minister claimed that he has certain goals in the US and would meet with Abbas because they are both present on foreign soil at the same time: “Since I am here in the US for other purposes and Abu Mazen is here as well, I think this is a good opportunity to remind the Israeli public that if it’s possible to establish a dialogue to reach a peace agreement, he is the only partner. Those who do not want him will receive Hamas.”

In 2007, Olmert and Abbas met in Annapolis, Maryland, for peace talks under the guidance of President GW Bush, where the Israeli PM agreed that Israel would share Jerusalem as the joint capital of Israel and a Palestinian state and hand over its holy sites to a multinational committee, with land swaps that would allow Israel to keep its major settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, the construction of a tunnel connecting the PA and the Gaza Strip, and a demilitarized Palestinian state with an American-led international security force stationed on the Palestinian–Jordanian border. Abbas balked, of course.

“I appreciate him despite the many disappointments I had with him while I was negotiating with him,” Olmert told Channel 12 Monday night. “But he is the only Palestinian leader who opposes terrorism and the only one who fights terrorism and he is the only one we should talk to.”

About the criticism directed at him for the extracurricular meeting, Olmert said: “I’m not going to a press conference with him. I’m just going to meet with him. I may say something to the reporters afterwards, but I do not share in any PA campaign, I have no connection to his visit to the United States and I do not attend any [PA-related] event. I’m just meeting with him and the very fact of meeting him is grabbing attention.”

“But I definitely want to encourage Abu Mazen to negotiate on the basis of the fundamental position of the Trump plan which is two states for two peoples,” Olmert stressed. “It’s not Abu Mazen who objects to that, I think it’s the Israeli prime minister.”

Olmert is in New York on the invitation of the J Street lobby, which promotes the two-state solution. On Monday night he met with the left-leaning group’s leadership.

At the end of their meeting, Olmert and Abbas are expected to make statements to the media – either separately or together.

Ehud Olmert served as the 12th Prime Minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009 and before that as a cabinet minister from 1988 to 1992 and from 2003 to 2006. Between his first and second stints as a cabinet member, he served as mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003. After serving as Prime Minister, he was sentenced to eight months in prison for accepting bribes and for obstruction of justice during his terms as mayor of Jerusalem and as trade minister.

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