Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday slammed former prime minister Ehud Olmert for meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris, calling it a “pathetic” move and a waste of time.
The Friday meeting, which drew the ire of others on Israel’s right as well, saw Olmert praise Abbas as a partner for peace.
“The only person among the Palestinian people who is capable of doing it and who proved in the past that he is completely committed to do it is Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, and that’s why I have an immense respect for him,” Olmert said in English to the Palestinian Authority official television station, sitting alongside Abbas.
Liberman said it was ironic for Olmert to refer to Abbas’s academic credentials.
“It is interesting that Olmert referred to him as ‘Dr Abbas’ but didn’t mention the topic of his doctoral thesis, which was on Holocaust denial,” Liberman told Army Radio. “It seems very pathetic.”
Liberman said that Israel was no closer to peace with the Palestinians now than it was when the Oslo Accords, which created the Palestinian Authority in the 1990s, were signed.
“The fact is that during the eight years of the Obama administration Mahmoud Abbas didn’t agree to move forward even one millimeter,” he said. “That means there is no chance. Twenty-five years since Oslo, within the framework of a two-state solution, there is no chance of reaching any kind of solution.”
In contrast, opposition leader Tzipi Livni expressed support for Olmert’s decision to meet the Palestinian leader.
“I myself meet with Palestinians from time to time,” she told Army Radio. “I will do everything possible to convince [Abbas] to continue the security cooperation” with Israel.
On Saturday the ruling Likud party blasted Olmert for meeting with Abbas, calling the Palestinian leader “the true obstacle to peace.”
“Olmert, who offered the Western Wall to Abbas, is now also his loyal spokesman,” said a Likud official in a statement to the press.
A proposal Olmert famously made during talks with Abbas in 2008 did not include the Western Wall. Rather, as prime minister at the time he proposed that Jerusalem’s Old City, where the wall is located, be placed under international control.
Olmert also called Abbas “a great political leader and the most relevant person for the future developments in the relations between Israel and Palestinians.”
The former Israeli leader, who was released from prison in July 2017 after serving 16 months behind bars for bribery, said there is no alternative to a two-state solution and stressed that he believes achieving such an outcome is still possible.
Olmert insisted that had his term not been shortened by the criminal convictions against him — for offenses that he continues to deny he was guilty of — peace would have been achieved long ago.
He also claimed that Abbas did not reject his proposals for peace during 2008 talks — though the PA leader has himself acknowledged doing so, at least tentatively.
“I am sure that as President Abbas said, had I been able to continue my tenure in office for three [to] four more months, then there would have been peace for years now between Israel and the Palestinians,” Olmert said in the interview.
The former premier said Abbas “doesn’t reject continuing within that framework which we discussed at the time.”