As the members of the United Nations vote to upgrade the status of the Palestinian representation at the world body to that of "observer-state," the Palestinian motion has won one surprising supporter.
According to the Daily Beast, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert now supports the Palestinian's U.N. bid, as it is "congruent with the basic concept of the two-state solution."
Olmert wrote to Bernard Avishai, professor at the Hebrew University, that "Once the United Nations will lay the foundation for this idea, we in Israel will have to engage in a serious process of negotiations, in order to agree on specific borders based on the 1967 lines, and resolve the other issues. It is time to give a hand to, and encourage, the moderate forces amongst the Palestinians. Abu-Mazen"—an alias for Abbas—"and Salam Fayyad need our help. It's time to give it.”
The exchange was published in the Daily Beast on Wednesday, and while Olmert's remarks were made in a private correspondence, Avishai argues that the former PM "intended his statement to be made public."
This is a significant shift in position for Olmert, who opposed Palestinian President Abbas' attempt to gain U.N. recognition at last year's meeting of the General Assembly. At the time, Olmert argued in the New York Times that while the Palestinian delegation had the right to bring up the proposal, it was "not the wisest step Mr. Abbas can take."
The Associated Press explains that Abbas' current diplomatic bid will undoubtedly succeed, and may allow the Palestinians to file possible war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
With most of the 193 General Assembly member states sympathetic to the Palestinians, the vote is certain to succeed. Several key countries, including France, have recently announced they would support the move to elevate the Palestinians from the status of U.N. observer to nonmember observer state. However, a country's vote in favor of the status change does not automatically imply its individual recognition of a Palestine state, something that must be done bilaterally.
Olmert's position diverts from Israel's official stance, which vehemently opposes the Palestinian motion. On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the Palestinians that a successful U.N. vote "would not change anything on the ground."
"It won't advance the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rather, put it further off," Netanyahu added, according to the Associated Press.