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Olmert: Right-wing U.S. cash derailed Israeli peace plan

By the CNN Wire Staff
May 5, 2012 -- Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ehud Olmert says extreme right-wing elements in the United States helped derail his peace plan
  • They poured millions of dollars into efforts to topple him from office, he says
  • Olmert, who quit as prime minister amid corruption allegations, does not name the right-wing figures
  • His 2008 peace plan proposed a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders

(CNN) -- Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said millions of dollars from the "extreme right wing" in the United States helped oust him from government and derailed a peace plan with the Palestinians.

In an exclusive interview aired Friday with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Olmert said his attempts to make peace had been "a killer" for him as prime minister.

In 2008, Olmert sought a "full comprehensive peace between us and the Palestinians" -- a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. But the plan was never realized and Olmert was forced from office accused of corruption, which he denies.

"It was a killer for me, not only because of the opposition in Israel. I think that, by the way, in Israel, the majority of the Israelis would have supported my plan, had it come for elections," Olmert said.

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Olmert: Right-wing dollars killed peace

"But I had to fight against superior powers, including millions and millions of dollars that were transferred from this country (the United States) by figures which were from the extreme right wing that were aimed to topple me as prime minister of Israel. There is no question about it."

Pressed to name names, Olmert replied: "Next time."

Asked if current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be willing to propose such a plan, given the same political risks, Olmert said it was the responsibility of a leader to put his country first.

"That's why you are prime minister," said Olmert. "That's why you take the responsibility of leadership. To do things which are right for the nation that you want to lead."

But Olmert acknowledged that such leadership comes at a price. "I paid personally, dearly. But there was no option for me but to do what I did. And I know for sure, and I know the names, of the people that spent millions of dollars in order to stop me -- from the United States."

He was then asked if there is still time for a two-state solution. "There is time," said Olmert, "but time is running out."

He admits that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, never said yes to his 2008 proposal, but also insists that he never said no.

"So why not reintroduce this plan again, and present the challenge to the Palestinians?" asked Olmert.

He said he hoped his successor, Netanyahu, would adopt his peace proposal -- which included the division of Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital -- but that so far this had not happened.

"The fact is that we don't negotiate with the Palestinians. And the fact is that we have not proposed anything," he said.

Olmert suggested the current Israeli government was content to blame the Palestinians for a reluctance to negotiate, rather than striving for a peace deal which is of great importance to Israel.

"We want peace. We need peace. We want to separate from the Palestinians," he said.

"We don't want to control the lives of the Palestinians. We want them to have their own separate state and we have to do everything in our power in order to bring it about."

Olmert said it broke his heart to propose the division of Jerusalem, which he served as mayor from 1993 to 2003. But the difficult decision was necessary, he said. "For me to propose a division of Jerusalem was really terrible. I did it because I reached a conclusion that without which there will not be peace."

Asked if Netanyahu will seek such a peace, Olmert said, "I certainly pray that he will." Then he added, "I doubt that he will."

Olmert was indicted on a variety of corruption charges in 2008 in a probe that dogged his last months in office.

He held several Cabinet posts under then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been in a coma since a stroke in 2006. Olmert succeeded Sharon after his stroke.

Olmert announced his resignation in September 2008, after the corruption investigation deepened, and left office after a new government took power in March 2009. Other corruption allegations have followed.

Olmert declined to discuss the charges with CNN. He has denied wrongdoing in all cases.

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