Olmert, Rice Agree to Hold Three-way Summit With Abbas

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice agreed yesterday to hold a tripartite summit, with the participation of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, during her next visit to the region.

Olmert and Rice met alone for two hours, while aides of the prime minister briefed officials accompanying the secretary of state of the steps taken by Israel to alleviate the difficulties faced by the Palestinian population in the West Bank.

The Israeli officials informed the Americans that the transfer of funds to Abbas is being delayed by the fact that the Palestinians have given Israel a bank account in Beirut.

"We will transfer the funds only when it is clear that they are not going to reach Hamas or Hezbollah," Israeli political sources said following the meeting.

During the meeting, Rice discussed the importance the U.S. attaches to bolstering the security forces loyal to Abbas.

Contrary to previous reports, an American official said the changes instituted by the IDF in West Bank checkpoints are already visible.

The American officials also said that on the basis of what they have learned during their visit, the chances that the Palestinians will succeed in forming a government of national unity are slim.

Olmert and Rice agreed that in return for recognition and cooperation, any Palestinian government will have to meet the Quartet's preconditions: recognition of Israel, relinquishing violence and accepting previous accords with Israel.

The two also agreed that a Palestinian government would have to abide by the road map, which is Olmert's way of foiling various recent attempts by Europeans and other elements to call for an international peace summit.

Olmert prefers for the peace process to be handled directly by himself and Abbas, under American auspices.

Meanwhile, in response to Rice's visit and her meetings with Abbas and Olmert, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas accused her of bringing a "perilous vision" to the region.

He said that Rice, who is in the Middle East in the hope of restarting peace efforts, is trying to "sedate" the Palestinians with promises of easing Israeli restrictions while really serving Israel's interests.

"She is bringing a perilous vision that everyone should be wary of," Haniyeh said. "It seems obvious the Bush administration will not exert pressure on Israel to make any substantial concessions to the Palestinian people."

Terming the aid the U.S. is pressing Israel to transfer to Abbas "dangerous," Haniyeh said it would only worsen infighting between Hamas and the PA Chairman's Fatah movement.

It was also announced yesterday that the GOC Central Command avoided any IDF operations in West Bank cities during Rice's two-day visit to the region.

The decision was made following the operation in Ramallah earlier in the month, which resulted in heavy fighting between an IDF force and Palestinians, while Olmert was meeting with Egypt's Hosni Mubarak at Sharm el-Sheikh. During the operation, four Palestinians were killed, tainting the meeting's atmosphere.

Military sources said that the IDF received explicit orders from the political echelon, limiting the operations that could be carried out to those that were urgently required as a result of an imminent threat - "ticking bomb" threats.

As soon as Rice departed yesterday, IDF forces carried out operations in the areas of Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah and Bethlehem, and arrested 19 Palestinians.