Olmert to join Abbas in US press conference next week, Palestinian envoy says

Television station reports former Israeli premier expected to state his opposition to Trump’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Adam Rasgon is a former Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Then-Israeli PM Ehud Olmert meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in Jerusalem, on November 17, 2008. (Moshe Milner GPO/Flash90)
Then-Israeli PM Ehud Olmert meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in Jerusalem, on November 17, 2008. (Moshe Milner GPO/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and former prime minister Ehud Olmert will meet in New York City next Tuesday and participate in a joint press conference, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, confirmed on Thursday.

Channel 12 first reported that the PA president and the former premier, who served 16 months in prison for bribery convictions in 2016 and 2017, would hold a joint press conference.

The channel also reported that Olmert was expected “to express his opposition” to the US administration’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reiterate that he and Abbas nearly concluded a peace deal before he left office in 2009 amid corruption allegations.

Olmert declined to confirm whether he intended to participate in a press conference with Abbas. 

“I am not giving interviews or responding to questions,” he said in a text message.

Mansour told The Times of Israel that additional details regarding the press conference would be announced in the coming days.

Abbas has adamantly rejected the US plan, calling it “the slap of the century” and vowing the Palestinian people “will send it to the dustbins of history.”

US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take part in an announcement of Trump’s Middle East peace plan in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 28, 2020. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Breaking with past American administrations, US President Donald Trump’s plan envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in about 70 percent of the West Bank, a small handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of Gaza and some areas of southern Israel — if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip, and fulfill other conditions.

The plan also allows Israel to annex settlements, grants the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and overriding security control west of the Jordan River, and bars Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel.

Olmert last publicly met Abbas in Paris in December 2018, during which time he spoke highly of the PA president and argued that — if he had remained in office — he and Abbas would have achieved a peace deal.

“President Abbas never said ‘no’ to my plan,” he told Palestine TV, the official PA station, at the time. “It is true he did not say ‘yes,’ but it is also true that — had I been prime minister for more time — there could have been peace.”

A sketch of the land for peace offer made by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008. The map was hand-drawn by Abbas. (photo credit: Walla News)

Olmert has said that he proposed in 2008 relinquishing almost the entire West Bank to Abbas, with one-for-one land swaps, dividing Jerusalem to enable a Palestinian capital and conceding Israeli sovereignty in the Holy Basin to an international trusteeship.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu succeeded Olmert as prime minister in 2009 and last met Abbas for direct negotiations in 2010.

Both Netanyahu and Abbas have accused each other of undermining efforts to advance peace.

Abbas is slated to arrive in New York City on Monday and deliver a speech to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday about the US plan.

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