JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he was ready to hold talks with Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab states and believed a comprehensive peace with them and the Palestinians could be reached in five years.
In interviews with major Israeli newspapers published on Friday, Olmert said the peace plan endorsed by Arab leaders at a summit in Riyadh could help create positive momentum in future negotiations.
“There is a significant chance that in the next five years Israel can get to a comprehensive peace,” Olmert said.
But Olmert made clear aspects of the Arab plan were “problematic” and that Israel was not prepared to embrace it, “jump in and say ‘This is it'”.
The Arab plan offers Israel normal ties with all Arab countries in return for its withdrawal from land seized in the 1967 Middle East war, the creation of a Palestinian state and a “just solution” for Palestinians displaced in 1948 with Israel’s creation.
Israel opposes giving Palestinian refugees the so-called “right of return” to their former homes in what is now the Jewish state.
“There are interesting ideas there (in the Arab plan), and we are ready to hold discussions and hear from the Saudis about their approach and to tell them about ours,” Olmert said in one of the interviews.
But he added: “We will act cautiously and wisely out of a willingness to create a dynamic that will improve and strengthen the process… We do not delude ourselves — they want us to go back to the 1967 borders and they also want the right of return.”
The right of return, Olmert said, is “something we certainly can’t agree to and we won’t agree to”.
Arab leaders in Riyadh gave the green light to a draft proposal which would create a committee that could negotiate details of the plan with the Jewish state and others.