Israel is concerned that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, in his eagerness to set up a unity government, may be willing to establish one that does not meet the international community's three benchmarks, something that could fundamentally change Israel's relationship with Abbas. Israel's concerns on this matter have been articulated to leading players in the international community, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Beckett: Hamas must recognize Israel
If Abbas accepts a government that doesn't recognize Israel, forswear terrorism or accept previous Palestinian-Israeli government, then - in the eyes of senior officials in Jerusalem - Israel would have to re-evaluate its relationship with him.
Although it is premature at this point to speculate, some officials in Jerusalem were speculating that were Abbas to agree to a government that does not accept the three principles, it might jeopardize the planned trilateral Olmert, Abbas, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meeting planned for February 19.
Just as Israel is concerned that Abbas may compromise "too much," in Mecca, there is also concern that some in the European Union might be in favor of abandoning or watering down the three principles if the Palestinians were able to establish a unity government.
This issue will likely be at the center of talks that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will hold on Thursday in Spain with Spanish Prime Minister Jos Lu s Rodr guez Zapataro and Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos. Spain is considered one of the European countries that might be willing to water down the principles in order to engage with the PA.
Livni will go from Spain to Germany to take part in the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy, which will bring together numerous world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, new US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani has also said he intends to attend the conference.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, meanwhile, met Wednesday afternoon with visiting British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett who, according to Israeli sources, reiterated Britain's firm commitment to the need of any Palestinian unity government to accept the three principles.
According to a statement Olmert's office released after the meeting, Beckett praised Israel for its policy of restraint in Gaza, as well as the steps Israel has taken to ease restrictions at the border crossings and to facilitate the transfer of goods.
Beckett and Olmert also discussed Iran, with Olmert reiterating that he believes that with effective sanctions - including sanctions that a number of countries are taking outside of the United Nations framework - it might still be possible to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. According to the statement, the two leaders agreed it was still possible to use non-military means to keep Iran from achieving a nuclear capability.
Olmert also raised with Beckett the issue of arrest warrants taken out in Britain against Israeli officers, and said there was a need for quick British legislation to prevent this from happening.
Beckett was quoted as saying that her government was aware of the problem and was working as hard as it could to change the legislation.