Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed Sunday to a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but said that if the Palestinians do not agree to Israel’s terms, Israeli forces will continue to act unilaterally to expand the Israeli state onto Palestinian land.
The statement was issued in a meeting between Olmert and Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt, in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, after Egyptian officials said they would argue against unilateral steps by Israel and would instead push for detailed peace talks with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.
The Israeli premier told a joint news conference with Mubarak that Israel was committed to the international road map peace plan through talks with Abbas, whom he is expected to meet for the first time as prime minister late this month.
Olmert said: "My aim is to exhaust all means to further this channel … . I hope that our Palestinian partners will take advantage of this opportunity and will implement all their obligations so that we can advance according to the road map. The ‘road map’, and agreement made in 2000, has never been adhered to by the Israeli government.
"We hope the Palestinian Authority will carry out the demands of … the international community and if this does not happen, or when we come to the conclusion that it is not happening, we will have no other option than to look for other ways to move the situation in the Middle East forward and not to allow stagnation to take hold.
The road map includes demands that the Palestinian Authority (PA) disarm armed groups and that Israel suspend all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank. While several attempts were made by the PA to disarm the groups, every time an agreement came close to being signed between the Palestinian factions, attacks by Israeli forces against both civilians and resistance fighters stymied the attempts.
The Israeli government, for its part, has never made an effort to implement its side of the road map, and settlement expansion has greatly increased onto Palestinian land, and has been solidified in the last three years with the construction of a massive wall on Palestinian land that cements the capture of land that Israel seized illegally, but hopes to hold onto as part of its ‘final borders’.
Olmert also apologised for the killing of two Egyptian policemen by Israeli soldiers last Friday.
Israel and Egypt agreed to a joint committee to investigate the border incident, which was condemned in the upper house of the Egyptian parliament on Sunday, and to prevent a recurrence.