Olmert: Peace possible before Bush leaves


Israel and the Palestinians could take big steps toward a peace deal as President Bush’s term wanes, Ehud Olmert said.

The Israeli prime minister said Sunday that though an upcoming peace conference hosted by the Bush administration in Annapolis, Md., may not deliver an accord, he was hopeful of a breakthrough within months.

“Annapolis will not be where negotiations take place, but certainly where they begin,” Olmert told the Saban Forum for Israeli-U.S. dialogue.

“I am committed to the vision of two states, the Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people. There will be no negotiations over this vision, there will be no concessions over this basic goal, so succinctly phrased by U.S. President George W. Bush: Two states for two peoples,” Olmert said.

He predicted significant progress toward this “even before the end of Bush’s term in office.”

Olmert said Israel would not ease its demand that the Palestinians honor their side of the “road map” by reining in terror. But he also said Israel, which is obligated by the road map to freeze West Bank settlement expansion and uproot illegal outposts, must abide by its commitments.

“Some of these obligations and demands are not convenient for us,” he said, “but I have no intention of running away from them.”

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