Israel must cede parts of Jerusalem: Olmert

November 11th, 2008 - 2:41 am ICT by IANS  

Jerusalem, Nov 11 (DPA) Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that Israel must cede parts of Jerusalem as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.”If we are determined to preserve the Jewish and democratic character of the state of Israel, we must inevitably relinquish, with great pain, parts of our homeland, of which we dreamt and for which we yearned and prayed for generations,” Olmert told a memorial service on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl.

The memorial was organised to mark 13 years according to the Hebrew calendar since the assassination of late Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin.

“And we must relinquish Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and return to that territory which comprised the state of Israel until 1967, with the necessary amendments stemming from the realities created on ground,” he added.

Olmert, who resigned late September amid corruption allegations and continues to head a transitional government until early elections are held on Feb 10, 2009, urged his future successor to avoid postponing a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the new leader of Olmert’s centrist Kadima party, and former hawkish premier Benjamin Netanyahu of the opposition Likud party, are the two leading contenders.

“If, God forbids, we drag our feet, we might lose the support for the idea of two states. The alternative is incomprehensible. Everyone understands it,” Olmert warned.

Referring to the Islamic Hamas movement, which refuses to recognize Israel, he urged: “A new regime may take control of the Palestinian territories and be radical and not open to the negotiation process.”

“The moment of truth has come, and there is no escaping it. We can miss it, we can postpone it, at a heavy price, for many more years of bloodshed and unending agonies.”

Addressing a special session of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, later Monday, Olmert vowed to continue peace negotiations with the Palestinians and Syria during his final months in office “as part of a genuine effort to reach an agreement, or at least establish its foundations, so that it cannot be evaded in the future.”

He was defying critics who have protested that as a caretaker prime minister he lacks legitimacy to make binding concessions.

Those critics have included the opposition Likud, which is trying to push through a bill that would make it illegal for transitional governments to conduct peace negotiations.

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