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At Dartmouth, Former Prime Minister Of Israel Sees Road To Mideast Peace

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Ehud Olmert (second from right) fields questions from Dartmouth students before a lecture on Tuesday.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert brought an optimistic message to Dartmouth Tuesday. Lunching with students before an afternoon lecture, he said he thought the groundwork has been laid for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.  Olmert welcomed recent changes in Egypt and Iran, and said that regional threats to Israel were diminishing, setting the stage for a stable agreement with the Palestinian Authority. 

“You don’t need more than two months to conclude the core issues. There are few core issues that must be answered. One is a territorial issue, the other is the status of Jerusalem, the third is a status of the Holy Basin, the fourth is the status of what they call the Arab refugees and the Arab peace initiative as part of it. I think these issues can be answered in an adequate manner that will satisfy the needs and the desires of both sides,” he said.

Olmert said Israel should give up territory to which it was historically entitled in exchange for peace. He criticized the current leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, for missing the chance to re-start talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.  But when asked if he wanted to replace Netanyahu, Olmert replied  that he is not the only politician who wants to create two separate but equal states for Palestinians and Israelis.

“If there will be not be anyone who can make peace than I will come again to Dartmouth and I will speak to you and I am sure you will give me good advice,” he said, laughing. 

Afterward, Reem Chamseddine, a freshman from Beirut, Lebanon, said she was disappointed that the former Israeli prime minister downplayed the bloody Lebanese conflict over which he presided. But she said she, too, hopes Mideast peace, with a two-state solution, is at least theoretically possible by the time she graduates from college.

“Now he’s not Prime Minister, so that might be more difficult, but if that were to happen I think that would be very possible, and that would be ideal, that would be perfect” she said.

Olmert’s videotaped  lecture was sponsored by the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding and the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Mid-East Peace.