PM: Temple Mount not negotiable

Olmert says Israel not committed to any deadline, Annapolis conference not a "historic" event.

bush olmert abbas wave (photo credit: AP)
bush olmert abbas wave
(photo credit: AP)
Israel's sovereignty over the Temple Mount is not up for discussion, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday, a day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem was key to an agreement with Israel. What occurred in Annapolis and Washington over the last two days had no bearing on the situation on the Temple Mount, Olmert said. Olmert's comments came at a press briefing with reporters following his final meeting with George W. Bush in the White House, and just hours before returning to Israel. Olmert's meeting with Bush, his third in just over 48 hours, was believed to have dealt with the Iranian nuclear situation. The prime minister said that the activities to halt Iran's nuclear program needed to continue at full force. He would not elaborate beyond that, saying only - when asked about his discussion on Iran with Bush - that he always finds his meeting with the president "captivating." Although Olmert said in Annapolis on Tuesday that he hoped an agreement with the Palestinians could be reached by the end of 2008, and he said Israel would exert all efforts to achieve this, he stressed that Israel had not committed itself to any deadline whatsoever. He also stressed that it was completely clear to all parties that the agreement would not be implemented until all the Palestinian requirements under the road map - including dismantling the terrorist infrastructure - are fulfilled. He emphasized that this included both the West Bank and Gaza. Olmert took a sober look at the Annapolis conference, saying that he had said for months that it would not be a "historic" or dramatic event that would change the face of the Middle East, but rather something that would give a push to what had been moribund Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. "We do not need to lose proportion," he said. "This was not something meant to change history." At the same time, he said that the Saudis' participation at the conference should not be underestimated, even if Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal was not willing to shake his hand. "Yesterday he sat and clapped after the speeches," Olmert said of Faisal. "That is a fact clear to everyone. It is significant that the Saudis felt it important to contribute [to the process]." Regarding Syrian participation in the conference, Olmert said he was "glad" to hear the angry Iranian reactions to the fact that Syria sent a delegation. Olmert, relating to a decision to essentially appoint a US official to determine when the sides have implemented the road map, said that Jerusalem had no problem with the US in the role, and there was no one more suitable in that role than the Americans. Olmert said he was pleased with Bush's strong statement during his speech Tuesday at Annapolis that Israel was the homeland for the Jewish people. "We will carry on the negotiations with that as a given, whether they accept it in the beginning or not. The end result will be clear, that Israel is the national home of the Jewish people," Olmert said. Olmert also said he spoke to every single major American presidential candidate in the last few days and they were all supportive of the Annapolis process, and all showed great goodwill toward Israel.