Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert poured scorn on the concept of boosting the Palestinian economy as a way of achieving peace during a 24-hour visit to London this week.
Speaking at a gathering of Jewish community leaders, he described “a new concept: an economic peace which will help to bring a real peace.
“I wish it could be true, but I know it is an illusion, a slogan.”
His remarks followed a 90-minute breakfast meeting with Gordon Brown in which the British Prime Minister had stressed the importance of removing roadblocks and other security constraints hampering Palestinian economic growth. Mr Brown has made the development of the Palestinian economy a central part of his Middle East policy.
However, while crediting the efforts of Quartet envoy Tony Blair in the region, Mr Olmert said that “nothing will come to full fruition until there is a full solution” endorsed and accepted by all international bodies.
“Then there will be an opening to what I call economic peace and co-operation that will change the face of the Middle East.”
Speaking at the sparsely-attended communal event, the outgoing Israeli prime minister also paid tribute to the support of Anglo-Jewry.
“The great friendship between the UK and Israel is largely because of the enormously committed Jewish community here in Great Britain,” he said.
Earlier in Downing Street, Mr Brown had also raised the issue of more accurate labelling of goods from the settlements.
Mr Olmert insisted that the current arrangement — which he negotiated himself with the EU as Trade Minister five years ago — were sufficient.
Other issues discussed included settlement expansion, the intensification of bilateral intelligence co-operation and the long-running issue of the British government’s commitment to prevent senior IDF officers facing arrest for alleged human rights violations while visiting Britain.