Israel gives Abbas guards 375 rifles

Olmert to British parliament: Israel will never leave the entire W. Bank.

Blair olmert 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Blair olmert 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
An aide close to Prime Minister Olmert announced Tuesday evening that Israel had transferred 375 rifles to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas [Abu Mazzen] a day earlier. "Despite the tension and the firing of Kassam rockets," Olmert said earlier, "I authorized last night the transfer of arms and ammunition to Abu Mazzen to strengthen the presidential guard so he can strengthen the forces against Hamas. I did this because we are running out of time and we need to help Abu Mazzen." According to earlier reports, Israel was to receive the weapons from Jordan and Egypt, and facilitate their transfer to the hands of security elements in the PA loyal to Abbas. Earlier in the day Olmert spoke before the British parliament. The Prime Minister said that Israel, "would never agree to pull out of all of the West Bank to pre-1967 borders because those borders are indefensible." Olmert said he was prepared to negotiate an agreement with any Palestinian government that renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel and stands by previous agreements between the two sides. "If these three conditions are met, it is entirely irrelevant who the (Palestinian) government is," he said. "If Hamas entirely accepts these conditions, we don't rule out anyone." But he then referred to the infighting between rival Palestinian factions, and suggested that it may be many years before Hamas might be ready for such a role. "Do you think these guys ... are ready in our lifetime to engage in a serious political dialogue?" he said. Regarding his realignment plan to pull out of most of the West Bank, but to retain large settlement blocs, the prime minister told the British lawmakers, "There was no 'Zionist' reasoning here, as you might be inclined to argue. There is an honest, real will on my part to give a lot and receive little in return. This will also be done following an honest, real effort to exhaust the diplomatic process." Olmert was to meet with Treasury chief Gordon Brown before departing for Paris. On Monday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair stopped far short of endorsing Olmert's West Bank realignment plan in a joint press conference at 10 Downing Street, declining to reiterate the positive statements made by US President George W. Bush last month in Washington. While Bush called the plan "bold" and said that it "could be an important step toward peace," the closest Blair came to an endorsement was to say that in lieu of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, "other ways will have to be found." Instead, he repeatedly insisted that a negotiated settlement was the one way to solve the conflict. "I don't want to go down any path other than a negotiated settlement," Blair said. "The only answer is a negotiated settlement. There really isn't another way to move forward." In a briefing to reporters following the press conference, Olmert took pains to paint his meeting with Blair and the press conference as a success. His aides even said that in their one-on-one meeting, the British leader advised Olmert on how to sell his plan to Europe. When reporters asked Olmert if he was disappointed, he asked if they had attended the same press conference. "I am not disappointed - the opposite - I am very positive," Olmert said. "I think its na ve to expect all the leaders of the world to stand up and pledge allegiance to the plan. Blair didn't say anything to suggest he opposes the plan. When Sharon proposed disengagement, it took a long time to get the praise it eventually received."