Negotiation or unilateral moves?
Ehud Olmert's election night speech

Published: 3 April 2006
Briefing Number 170

Click to Printclick here to print page

Summary: This Briefing highlights the election night victory speech of Ehud Olmert on 28 March 2006, when he committed Israel to seeking coexistence and compromise with the Palestinians, and called on them to end hatred and terrorism and make it possible to negotiate. He said that Israel would act unilaterally in setting its borders, if the Palestinians did not act as partners.

Israel is accused of wishing to “impose” a unilateral solution on the Palestinians. As Olmert’s speech makes clear, this is not true. Israel would prefer to negotiate. Its willingness to act unilaterally has been forced upon it by the stance of the Palestinian leadership – the refusal of Hamas to recognise Israel and renounce violence; and the refusal of the previous Palestinian Authority to curb terrorism against Israel.

Key message: For Israel, as Olmert’s speech makes clear, negotiation is a preferred route. Unilateralism is a last resort. Unilateralism is on the agenda, not because of Israeli policy, but because of Palestinian policy.

The Kadima party, led by acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, won the largest number of seats in the Knesset in Israel’s General Election of 28 March 2006. The centrepiece of Kadima’s platform is a pledge that Israel should extensively withdraw from West Bank territory either by negotiated agreement with the Palestinians or, if that is not feasible, by unilateral steps.

Here is what Ehud Olmert said on election night on these issues:-

“In the near future we aspire to fashion the permanent borders of the State of Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state with a permanent Jewish majority. We will attempt this through negotiations with our Palestinian neighbours. That is our hope; it is also our prayer…. There is no peace more stable than that based on agreement. An agreement can only be based on negotiations, which must be conducted on the basis of mutual recognition, already signed agreements, the principles of the road map, and of course cessation of violence and the disarming of all terrorist organisations.....

… At this moment, I turn to the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and say to him in the simplest most straightforward way that people can speak to one another: for thousands of years we were bolstered by the dream of the complete Land of Israel in our hearts.

This land, it its historic borders, will always remain the yearning of our souls… in recognition of reality and understanding of our circumstances, however, we are ready to compromise and give up parts of the land that we love, where the best of our sons and fighters are buried and, with a heavy heart, to evacuate from there the Jews who live there in order to allow you to fulfil your dream and live alongside us, in your state, in lasting peace….

… The time has come for the Palestinians, like us, to come to terms with the partial fulfilment of their dreams, end terrorism, abandon hatred, embrace democracy for themselves and look to a future of coexistence, compromise and peace with us…..

If the Palestinians manage to act in the near future, we will sit at the negotiating table in order to determine our new future in the region. If they do not, Israel will take its fate into its own hands, on the basis of consensus at home and deep understanding of our friends in the world, first and foremost the United States and President Bush, and will act in the absence of an agreement with the Palestinians. We will not wait too long, the time has come to act….”

Related Beyond Images Briefings

On surrendering long-held dreams, see Briefing 161: Ariel Sharon, Kadima and political change – can the Palestinians change too?

On the logic of disengagement and the Palestinians see Briefing 127