PM Refuses to Budge on the Three Conditions

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert demanded yesterday in talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Palestinian unity government recognize Israel, renounce terror and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Olmert said Israel would reject alternatives to the three conditions that are meant to make the unity government appear acceptable in the eyes of the world. The conditions were first set by the Quartet, comprised of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

Israel will not have any contact with Palestinian figures who are considered moderates, such as finance minister-designate Salam Fayad, if they serve in a government that does not accept the Quartet's conditions, Olmert said. In the Jerusalem meeting, he rejected the suggestion that Israel negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Abbas, thereby freeing Hamas of the requirement to recognize Israel.

Olmert also demanded that the Palestinian government release captive soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted near Gaza in June. He also wants the government to stop the arms-smuggling between the Sinai and the Gaza Strip and deploy forces in northern Gaza to prevent Qassam fire.

"Abu Mazen (Abbas) will not be able to argue that he is weak and incapable of taking action after he sets up a government with Hamas," said a political source in Jerusalem. "He won't be able to evade responsibility."

Olmert promised that Israel would maintain contact with Abbas, but said the relationship would be limited to two subjects: fighting terror in accordance with the first phase of the roadmap and making the daily lives of Palestinian civilians easier.

Abbas told Olmert and Rice that the Mecca agreement on the formation of a unity government was reached because there was no other choice if the violent clashes between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza were to come to an end.

Abbas and Olmert also reiterated their commitment to a two-state solution and their support for the cease-fire in Gaza, according to a summary statement read by Rice. Rice said Olmert and Abbas would meet again shortly and that she expected to return to the region soon.