12:21 GMT +321 January 2020
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Israelis and Palestinians need to sit down and devise own peace plan rather than accept the one proposed by any country "from the outside," former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Sputnik.

    "I don’t think that we need a peace plan that comes from the outside. Why do we, Israel, why do we need America to propose for us the deal with the Palestinians? Why do the Palestinians need America to propose a deal for them with Israel? We can do it and they can do it, and the best way is to sit down, jointly and work it out," Olmert said.

    READ MORE: Israeli Prime Minister Accuses Palestinian National Authority of 'Choking' Gaza

    He welcomed the United States intention to bring about peace to the region but noted that Israel and Palestine would consider it only if they fail to come up with their own peace initiatives.

    "My priority is that Israel will present its own plan which would be the deal of the century and will ask the Palestinians to come to the table on the basis of that plan. If the Israeli government for whatever reason would refrain from proposing its own initiative, then hopefully the American would be attractive enough for both sides to be able to sit together," he stressed.

    The politician recalled that he himself had held multiple negotiations with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, and they "were millimeters away" from a comprehensive agreement on the conflict settlement some nine years ago.

    "But in order to sit with them [again] we need a platform, we need a plan. Either a Palestinian plan, or an Israeli plan. If there is no such a plan, then we would have an American plan," he argued.

    Olmert also expressed confidence that, if Moscow proposed the peace plan, it would be thoroughly examined, and stressed his good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    "And if [Putin] agrees to present a plan, I promise you, even though I can’t speak for the government, I’m sure that then Israeli government will look into it in the most serious manner, and we will try to see if it can be helpful," he pointed put.

    READ MORE: Palestine Urges Berlin to Pressure Israel Over Razing Bedouin Village — Reports

    In September, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that President Donald Trump administration’s long-awaited peace plan for Israel and Palestine would be completed soon.

    Trump has long promised to take steps toward settling the long-standing conflict between Israel and Palestine. White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt have been working to put together a US plan that could bring peace to the region.

    The Middle East settlement process took a hit last December when the United States decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The move was condemned by Arab states and has been rejected by European nations. Palestine responded by refusing to accept the United States as the primary mediator in peace talks with Israel.

    Russian Policy on Syria

    Olmert also noted that Israel has no intention to challenge Russia’s stance on Syria but will continue resisting any Iranian military presence in the Arab republic.

    "Russia must understand that we don’t question the right of Russia to establish whatever relations with Syria, we don’t question the right of Russia to do it. We do insist that there would be no foreign armies that are formally and publicly committed to fight against Israel — which are the Iranians. And when it happens in Syria we have no choice but act, and we will act," Olmert said.

    READ MORE: Pentagon Calls Delivery of S-300s to Syria 'Knee-Jerk Response' to Il-20 Downing

    At the same time, he expressed confidence that Moscow similarly feels no hostility toward Israel.

    "I don’t think that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin is hostile to Israel and I don’t think that he will take part in any attempt to jeopardize the security of the state of Israel. He once promised me when we worked together that he will never give a hand to jeopardize the security of the state of Israel, and I trust him," the former Israeli prime minister noted.

    He stressed that Israel’s principled position was to prevent Tehran from establishing its permanent military presence in Syria and expressed dissatisfaction that Russia had allegedly taken insufficient efforts to facilitate the Iranian forces’ withdrawal.

    "That must be clear: we will not allow the Iranians to establish its permanent military presence in Syria. It will not happen and I expect President Putin to be aware of it and to take the necessary measures in order to prevent any unnecessary hostilities as a result of the Iranian presence," Olmert said.

    READ MORE: Russia Trying to Mediate Between Iran & Israel as Syria Tensions Simmer — Report

    According to Olmert, the withdrawal of Iranian forces would have allowed the Israeli and Russian forces to avoid unnecessary incidents on the Syrian territory.

    In September, Russian-Israeli relations were marred by the crash of a Russian Il-20 plane off the Syrian coast. The Russian Defense Ministry put the blame for the crash on the Israeli Air Force that was carrying out airstrikes in the Syrian province of Latakia at the time of the incident.

    According to the ministry, the Israeli jets used the Il-20 as a shield against the Syrian air defense systems and Israel notified Russia of its operation only a minute before the attack and also failed to prove an accurate location of its jets. As a result, the plane was downed by a missile launched by Syria's S-200 air defense system.


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