Three-way Summit: Israel and U.S. to Coordinate Stance on PA Unity Gov't

Israel and the United States presented a coordinated stance yesterday ahead of tomorrow's trilateral summit in Jerusalem.

During preparatory talks on the summit, which will be attended by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Israel and the U.S. agreed that the new Palestinian unity government must be required to abide by the three conditions set by the Quartet: recognizing Israel, renouncing terror and honoring previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. The Quartet, comprising the U.S., the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, originally set these as the conditions for recognizing a Hamas government.

Olmert spoke by telephone on Friday with U.S. President George W. Bush, and the two discussed the ramifications of the Mecca Agreement on a Palestinian unity government, as well as the Iranian nuclear issue.

According to a government source in Jerusalem, Bush and Olmert "see eye to eye on the need for any future Palestinian government to meet the Quartet's demands." Bush also spoke with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, under whose auspices the Mecca Agreement was drafted. Rice arrived in Jerusalem yesterday and met with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The two also spoke twice by telephone before Rice's arrival in the region.

Today, Rice will meet separately with Abbas in Ramallah and with Olmert in Jerusalem to continue preparations for the summit.

Other Bush administration envoys held preparatory talks yesterday with Olmert's aides, Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turjeman, and with Foreign Ministry Director General Aharon Abramovitch. Olmert plans to tell Rice today that the Mecca Agreement and its implications should be the main topic of discussion at tomorrow's summit. According to the government source, Israel will insist that any diplomatic progress be conditioned on the Palestinian unity government not only accepting the Quartet's conditions, but also acting on them. Olmert and Rice will discuss both what should happen if the PA does accept the Quartet's demands, and what should happen if it does not.

"We have to think about how to behave if Salam Fayyad, a moderate and acceptable figure, becomes finance minister in a Hamas-led government," the source said. "Israel will not be willing to recognize such a government, even if it includes some moderates."

Another Israeli source added, "In the worst-case scenario, we will boycott the Palestinian unity government, just as we boycotted the Hamas government until now."

The trilateral summit will convene tomorrow morning in the David's Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, where Rice and her entourage are staying, and last a few hours. No joint press conference is planned for afterward, in order to avoid making a public display of the expected differences of opinion.