Olmert confident of Quartet's support

PM expects respite from international diplomatic pressure, officials say.

rice, abbas, olmert 298. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
rice, abbas, olmert 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is confident that Israel will not be blindsided until at least mid-summer by new proposals aimed at jump-starting the diplomatic process, senior diplomatic officials said Thursday. The officials were responding to Wednesday's Quartet statement that in addition to calling on the PA government to commit itself to nonviolence, recognize Israel, and accept previous agreements, also said that the Quartet meeting had "concluded with a discussion of possible further steps by the international community in the context of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East." The officials did not rule out the possibility that there may be independent initiatives in the coming weeks if a diplomatic stalemate ensued because a Palestinian unity government was established that didn't accept the Quartet's principles, and Israel, as a result, refused to deal with it. However, the officials said that Olmert did not believe that these initiatives would come from the "actors he cares the most about - the US and EU, as long as Germany is at its head." The officials said that Olmert's "good rapport" with US President George W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Tony Blair makes him feel confident that there would not be widespread international backing for any new diplomatic initiative at this time. Germany currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, and will hold that position until June 30. Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said that there was no "excitement" in the Prime Minister's Office as a result of the Quartet statement, which also "welcomed preliminary ideas put forward by the European Commission to meet the need to better coordinate and mobilize international assistance in support of the political process and to meet the needs of the Palestinian people." Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov said after the Quartet meeting in Berlin Wednesday that this sentence in the statement was an indication that the Quartet had not declared a boycott against the Palestinian government. "We today discussed the EU proposals to turn the temporary mechanism for assistance to the Palestinians into a permanent one," Lavrov said. "A special meeting is called for March 13 that will specifically examine parameters of that permanent mechanism. To talk of a boycott is simply wrong, I believe." Last summer the EU established a temporary mechanism to channel aid to the Palestinian people, bypassing the Hamas government. Since that time some $900 million has been given to the Palestinians, a sum that European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner said recently was more than the amount that was given to the PA government before Hamas took power. "Obviously we are following things closely," Foreign Minister spokesman Mark Regev said when asked if there was concern in Israel about the language of the statement. Regev responded to the Quartet's overall statement by saying that Israel "supported the decision to stand by the three international benchmarks; these benchmarks are not impediments to moving forward, rather they are vital requirements for progress in the peace process."