Friday, January 4, 2008

Olmert: Israel failed its settlement promise (MSNBC)
JERUSALEM - Israel has failed to uphold its promise to halt building in settlements, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an unprecedented acknowledgement Friday ahead of President Bush's visit to prod Israel and the Palestinians toward a final accord.

Any agreement is to be based on the internationally backed "road map" peace plan, which was revived ahead of the recent Mideast peace summit in Annapolis, Md., where Israel and the Palestinians officially relaunched talks after seven years of violence.

The road map foundered shortly after it was presented in 2003 because neither side met initial obligations: Israel did not halt West Bank settlement construction, and the Palestinians did not crack down on militants.

Israel has long maintained that it has the right to continue building in existing settlements to account for ill-defined "natural growth" of the existing settler population — something the "road map" explicitly bans. But in his interview with The Jerusalem Post, Olmert acknowledged that Israel was not honoring its commitments.

"There is a certain contradiction in this between what we're actually seeing and what we ourselves promised," Olmert said.

"Obligations are not only to be demanded of others, but they must also be honored by ourselves. So there is a certain problem here," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Olmert added, however, that Israel believes a Bush letter to the Israeli government in 2004 "renders flexible to a degree what is written in the road map."

In that letter, Bush wrote that "existing Israeli population centers" should be taken into consideration when the final borders of a Palestinian state are set down. Israel takes this to mean it will be able to retain major West Bank settlement blocs, where much of the controversial construction is going on.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat welcomed Olmert's remarks. When both sides admit they are not carrying out all their obligations, that "should be the way for both of us to carry out our obligations," Erekat said.

1 comment:

Shimshon said...

I just wonder what promise the Palestinians kept?
They have broken every single promise they have made since there is something like a "Peace Process"