Prime MinisterEhud Olmert said
on the way back from Moscow Thursday that the moment of truth for the Palestinians is closer than ever.
"Either (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas takes brave steps now, or we will all lose the rest of our hope," he told reporters on the flight back from Moscow, where he met with Russian
President Vladimir Putin.
"I am willing to meet with Abbas at any time. There have been numerous meetings between my people and his people we can both trust. But Abbas does not have the ability to meet me, unless I release a few hundred prisoners of his," Olmert said.
A top official explained during the flight that Abbas is asking for the release of hundreds of prisoners even before Gilad Shalit is released, and Israel is completely opposed to that. "We will not release any prisoners as long as Shalit is still in their hands," he said.
Olmert also spoke about the Iran issue and said that "I did not threaten Iran, but the clock is ticking. What we did not want to say a year ago, we can say today. Eight months ago we couldn't speak about sanctions, but today they are happening.
"I am the first Prime Minister who says to Iran it should be afraid. It is inconceivable that Iran could not know what it is up against. Otherwise how would it agree on a compromise?" Olmert told reporters.
"I am not a radical person, but there is a range you try to operate in," Olmert clarified. "I am not against a reasonable agreement but the line has to be drawn somewhere. The point I cannot pass is technological in its essence and it is the point where enrichment is being done by centrifuges, which can be used for military purposes."
Olmert summed up his visit to Moscow, saying that he "left with a strong feeling that Russia is definitely against a nuclear Iran. I feel that there is a strong bond between us, and I wouldn't want to ruin it by saying something which is not coordinated with them on the Iranian issue."
"Russia sees itself as a superpower and is acting like a superpower who wants to show responsibility which stems from that position.
"Today we don't have the situation we had in the past. This is why Russia will not go against the actions of the United States like it used to. The Russians see themselves wholly committed to the Iranian nuclear issue," the prime minister said.
Olmert also referred to the internal political issues at hand. He rejected the possibility that Amir Peretz would be the one to invite Yossi Beilin into the government.
"Let him invite Beilin to his own government," Olmert said sarcastically. Having said that, Olmert did not completely rule out the possibility of Beilin joining a coalition headed by Kadima.
"I am willing to accept Beilin, I am willing to accept Lieberman, but without changing the basic principles of this government," he said.