Israel’s former prime minister Ehud Olmert held an unexpected meeting Friday in Paris with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“I’m very happy to meet President Abbas, it’s been a long time since we met,” Olmert said, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Abbas visited France’s capital on Friday to meet with President Emmanuel Macron, to discuss a response to the pressures the U.S. has exerted in recent months against the Palestinians.

“President Abbas, first and foremost, is the president of the Palestinian people. And he is a great political leader, the most important person for future developments and relations between Israelis and Palestinians,” the former Israeli president said.

“He has proven in the past to be committed and for that I have respected him. The Palestinians also understand this, and it is important for the Israeli people to understand this as well”

” I define Abbas as a friend of mine since we worked together. I believe, like him, that peace is possible. I am sure, like Abbas, that had I been able to conclude my term as prime minister, peace would have been achieved years ago,” he said.

The Israeli politician added in his comments to Palestinian television that both the U.S., Europe and Israel must understand that there is no alternative to a two-state solution in order to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that the latter is entirely possible. 

Former PM Ehud Olmert an PA President Mahmoud Abbas (filephoto)
Former PM Ehud Olmert an PA President Mahmoud Abbas (filephoto)

A career lawyer, Olmert served as mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, and as prime minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009, as well as in various government cabinet positions. Following corruption scandals, Olmert announced his resignation at the end of 2008. 

A lengthy trial followed in the which finally culminated in a 6-year prison sentence in 2014, becoming the first Israeli leader to be sent to prison. After serving 16 months in prison, he was released in July last year by the government because of his conduct.