By Gideon Alon
12 February 2007
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday softened Israel's
stance on the "Mecca agreement" for a Palestinian unity
government. Last week, the government had said the
agreement was unacceptable. Yesterday, however, Olmert
told the cabinet that "at this stage, Israel neither
rejects nor accepts the agreement. Like the international
community, we are studying what was achieved in the
agreement, what it says and the basis of the consensus."
Olmert's decision to stop criticizing the accord stemmed
from the Quartet's announcement that it continues to
demand that any Palestinian government abide by the
conditions it laid down last year: recognizing Israel,
renouncing terror and accepting previous
Israeli-Palestinian agreements, as well as the road map.
In light of this statement by the Quartet, whose members
include the U.S., European Union, United Nations and
Russia, Olmert opted to lower the profile of his response,
so as not to appear rejectionist.
Olmert also told the cabinet that since the Palestinian
unity government has not yet actually been formed, there
is no reason not to attend next week's tripartite summit
with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice.
The prime minister spoke yesterday with German Chancellor
Angela Merkel and told her that as a first step, the new
Palestinian government should be required to release
kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Germany holds the EU's
rotating presidency, and EU foreign ministers will meet
today to discuss the Mecca agreement.
Olmert also called Russian President Vladimir Putin
yesterday, and told the cabinet that Putin had promised to
toe the Quartet line.
Major General Amos Yadlin, head of Military Intelligence,
told the cabinet that Hamas was the big winner from the
Mecca agreement, since the deal enables the Islamic
movement to retain control of the Palestinian government
without giving up its ideology.