Israel, Palestine missed historic opportunity for peace after 2008 ceasefire: Former Israeli PM

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Ehud Olmert

Ehud Olmert (File photo)

New Delhi: Israel and Palestine missed a historic opportunity for peace following the 2008 Gaza ceasefire, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Saturday.


Olmert accused attacks by Hamas for the failure to establish peace, even as the former prime minister said he is not a political supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"We missed an opportunity as a result of the vicious attack of Hamas which was unsolicited. There was no confrontation, no exchange of hostilities or violence on the border," he said at the 'Firstpost Defence Summit 2024.

"In 2005, I was privileged to be vice prime minister in the Israeli government which pulled out completely from Gaza... It is different in the West Bank, but in Gaza, we didn't occupy one centimetre. And the day after we pulled out, they started to shoot rockets on Israeli townships across the border, and it didn't stop until the seventh of October, when Israel finally decided to counter offensive in a very massive manner," he said.


In an unprecedented attack on Israeli cities on October 7, Hamas killed around 1,200 people and kidnapped more than 220 others some of whom were released during a brief ceasefire. In the Israeli offensive that followed, nearly 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run authorities in Gaza.

"I think that there was a historic opportunity in 2008, beginning of 2009 to resolve the historical conflict between us and the Palestinians, which is the basis of everything that will develop in the Middle East. And this was when I presented, as the Prime Minister of Israel, to the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, a peace plan on the basis of a two-state solution," Olmert said.

"This was presented to the Palestinians at the end of 2008, beginning of 2009, officially by the prime minister of the State of Israel on behalf of the State of Israel, and it was the maximum that any time in the future the Palestinians will be able to get within the framework of an agreement," he claimed.


The 2008 Israel-Hamas ceasefire was an Egyptian-brokered six-month agreement for the Gaza area, which went into effect between Hamas and Israel on 19 June 2008.

"There was a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, with the Arab side of Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state," Olmert claimed.

"The refugee issue which was hanging over the skies of the Middle East for so many years would have been resolved within the framework of the Arab League Peace Initiative, which was originally accepted by the Arab League on the 28th of November 2002 and was reconfirmed on the 28th of November 2017 in Riyadh. This was presented to the Palestinians. They failed to say yes. Since then there were ongoing confrontations," he added.

"And now we have this terrible event which has shaken the foundations of the Middle East. How can we achieve peace?" Olmert said.

Asserting that he is neither a "spokesman" of the Israeli government, nor "a supporter of the Israeli government", the former Israeli PM said, peace can be achieved "if the Israeli government will be willing to make the necessary compromises at the end of the day, to allow the creation of a Palestinian state within the framework of an agreement between us and them, and if the Palestinians will have the courage and the leadership to come along." "At the present time, the main obstacle for a comprehensive rearrangement to the entire Middle East is the lack of will on both sides," he added.