The US will not recognize a Palestinian unity government that does not recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and accept previous Israel-Palestinian agreements, US President George W. Bush told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a telephone conversation on Friday. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office, who reported the conversation, said Bush and Olmert saw "eye to eye" on this matter, and that David Welch, the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, relayed this message when he met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday.
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The Bush-Olmert conversation took place a day before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived for Monday's trilateral talks with Olmert and Abbas that were originally designed to provide the Palestinians with a "political horizon," but which will now largely concentrate on the Mecca agreements and what they mean for any future diplomatic moves.
Diplomatic sources said the message coming out of Ramallah in recent days, that the Mecca agreement was the best possible one under the circumstances and that both Israel and the international community would have to learn to live with it, was unacceptable to Israel.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni put this in diplomatic terms when, at a photo opportunity with Rice before a dinner meeting in Jerusalem Saturday night, she said the Mecca understandings "don't meet the requirements of the international community. It is crucial to understand that Israel, with the international community, expect any Palestinian government to meet these requirements fully and completely."
The Palestinian moderates, Livni said, "need to understand that the path to a Palestinian state goes through the renunciation of violence and terrorism, and not by compromising with terror."
Livni said the Quartet's three principle were "not obstacles to peace, they are the basic conditions and foundations for any kind of vision of a two-state solution."
Rice, acknowledging that she had arrived at a "complicated" time, stressed, "We are between the announcement of the intention to form a government and the actual formation of that government." She also said the US would wait until the formation of the PA government "before making any decisions about it, that is generally the feeling held by the international community as a whole."
Diplomatic sources have said in recent days that both Olmert and Rice will try to impress on Abbas at their meeting Monday the importance during this interim period of the Palestinians putting together a government that will accept the three principles.
Rice termed these principles "the foundational principles for peace."
"It only makes sense," she said, "that you have to renounce violence, it only makes sense that you have to recognize the right of your partner to exist and respect international agreements. And those principles remain, and they are the foundational principles for the formation of two states, and in fact for the formation of leadership that can lead to that two-state solution."
Rice and Livni met privately for dinner Saturday night at Jerusalem's David Citadel Hotel to prepare for Monday's trilateral talks. The secretary of state is scheduled to meet Sunday with Abbas in Ramallah, and then in the afternoon with Olmert, to lay the groundwork for Monday's three-way talks.
No decision has been made regarding whether the three leaders will hold a joint press conference following Monday's meeting. Diplomatic officials said the answer to that question will be a good indication of how the talks went, with agreement to a trilateral press conference a good sign, with a decision to the contrary a sign there was nothing positive to report.
Diplomatic officials said Olmert wants to talk about the "political horizon" with Abbas and what Israel expects to be included in a two-state solution, without entering into negotiations. According to these officials, the Mecca agreement has complicated this process because although Abbas remains the head of the PA who is supposed to lead the diplomatic process, Israel doesn't see a Palestinian government that is able to implement that process, or even a government with whom it would be possible to negotiate how to reach the "political horizon."â€¢