Axis of evil – Blair meets Olmert

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PRIME Minister Blair shook hands with Israeli leader Ehud Olmert at Downing Street yesterday, saying that there were the strongest links between Britain and Israel and expressing his condolences for those that had died in a train crash near Netanya.

However, for the Palestinian children who died on the Gaza beach there was nothing.

Blair said that the ‘principles’ for a negotiated settlement in the Middle East were ‘very clear’.

He said he had ‘no doubt’ that the Israeli leader Olmert was sincere and added: ‘Our task is to help you . . . to try and get an agreement to come about.

‘We’re delighted you have come here,’ he added.

The Israeli leader spelt out that unless the Palestinian leadership agreed to Israel’s terms for negotiations, then his government would go ahead and annex whole parts of the West Bank to Israel.

Israel’s terms are that the Palestinians must accept Israel, disband all armed groups, give up any idea of Palestinian refugees having the right to return to their homes and accept that Jerusalem will be the eternal capital of Israel and parts of the West Bank which are heavily settled will become part of Israel.

Blair threw his full weight behind Olmert, saying that either the Palestinians must agree to Israel’s terms ‘or other ways to move it forward have got to be found.

‘You can’t have a situation where nothing happens,’ he added.

Olmert said he couldn’t have put it ‘in a more acceptable or responsible manner’.

For good measure, Olmert added that the pre-conditions Israel was demanding ‘will not change’.

Olmert said he would meet Palestinian President Abu Mazen (also known as Mahmud Abbas) in ‘a few weeks’.

He said he hoped with Blair’s assistance to get Mazen to meet the ‘threshold’ for ‘negotiations between us and the Palestinians’.

But if not, Olmert said ‘we will have to move forward even without a Palestinian partner’, to separate from the Palestinians and ‘realign’ settlements partly into blocs and partly into the state of Israel.

‘The status quo is the enemy of everything we are in favour of,’ said Olmert.

‘If I was Israeli prime minister, I would adopt the same position,’ said Blair.