Ehud Olmert said he respects the input of U.S. Jews and they should make their opinions heard on Israel-related issues.
Olmert met with Jewish organizational leaders Tuesday evening after relaunching Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at the U.S.-convened conference in Annapolis, Md.
“He said the ultimate decision rests with the government of Israel, but he welcomes and appreciates the input of American Jewry,” Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reported after the meeting. “He reiterated the right of people to speak out.”
Hoenlein asked Olmert about remarks he had made earlier in the week when he told reporters that Diaspora Jewish groups do not have a right to dictate to Israel whether it negotiates over Jerusalem.
“Does any Jewish organization have a right to confer upon Israel what it negotiates or not?” Olmert replied Monday to a question by JTA at a news conference. “This question was decided a long time ago. The government of Israel has a sovereign right to negotiate anything on behalf of Israel.”
Olmert explained to the Jewish organizational leaders Tuesday that he had been asked whether Diaspora groups could force Israel not to negotiate over Jerusalem, and that was what he rejected. However, the question from JTA had asked Olmert to respond to a number of Jewish groups that recently said Israel’s government does not have a unilateral mandate to negotiate over Jerusalem.
Another Jewish organizational leader at the meeting quoted Olmert as saying the most extreme positions on Jerusalem were held by right-wing Israelis, not Diaspora Jews.