Olmert, speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, also said that he would go through with plans to attend a three-way summit with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, despite expected domestic criticism.
According to Olmert, he would attend the meeting in order to explore possibilites for a "diplomatic horizon."
Olmert Sunday softened Israel's stance on the "Mecca agreement" for a Palestinian unity government. Last week, the government declared the agreement was unacceptable. On Sunday, however, Olmert told the cabinet that "at this stage, Israel neither rejects nor accepts the agreement. Like the international community, we are studying what was achieved in the agreement, what it says and the basis of the consensus."
Olmert's decision to stop criticizing the accord stemmed from the Quartet's announcement that it continues to demand that any Palestinian government abide by the conditions it laid down last year: recognizing Israel, renouncing terror and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, as well as the road map. In light of this statement by the Quartet, whose members include the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia, Olmert opted to lower the profile of his response, so as not to appear rejectionist.
Olmert also told the cabinet that since the Palestinian unity government has not yet actually been formed, there is no reason not to attend next week's tripartite summit with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The prime minister spoke Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and told her that as a first step, the new Palestinian government should be required to release Shalit, who has been held by Hamas and related groups since Juine 25. Germany holds the EU's rotating presidency, and EU foreign ministers will meet today to discuss the Mecca agreement.
Olmert also called Russian President Vladimir Putin Sunday, and told the cabinet that Putin had promised to toe the Quartet line.
Major General Amos Yadlin, head of Military Intelligence, told the cabinet that Hamas was the big winner from the Mecca agreement, since the deal enables the Islamic movement to retain control of the Palestinian government without giving up its ideology.