VIDEO - Speaking at the annual press conference hosted by the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem on Wednesday Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stressed that while the political platform he built his premiership campaign on – the realignment plan which would have seen the evacuation of most of the settlements in the West Bank - has faded due to 'changed circumstances', his vision for the near future included the formation of an independent Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel.
Addressing the newly agreed upon Palestinian unity government Olmert said: "I have made it clear that I will not cut my contacts with Abbas. I will continue to maintain the bilateral track, I will meet with Abbas and my staff will meet with his staff on a regular basis - hoping to create the necessary environment that will be helpful to the relations between us and them."
Olmert said the talks with Abbas will be dedicated to improve the daily lives of Palestinians. ''We believe that however mistaken their leadership can sometimes be, people don't have to suffer for the mistakes of the leaders,'' Olmert said.
Olmert said however that Israel would not do business with the unity government until it accepts the three conditions detailed by the international community and the Quartet: recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace deals.
''Israel will not be able to maintain any kind of formal or practical contact with a government that will not accept explicitly the principles of the Quartet,'' he said.
Of Hamas he said '"the fact is that indeed the majority among the Palestinians voted for people who don't want to make peace with Israel, and without a change among the Palestinians it will be very difficult to accomplish this."
Olmert said he was willing to talk with enemies, but Hamas is the one unwilling to either talk to or recognize Israel. It is unforgivable that Khaled Mashaal, Olmert said, who represents 50 percent of the Palestinian people, is not interested in talking with us or in making peace with Israel.
'We're not interested in helping Syria pretend it's peace-loving'
Asked about whether Israel might react positively to signals from Syria that it's ready to enter peace negotiations, Olmert said that country's support of violent organizations precludes such talks.
Olmert in Jerusalem on Wednesday (Photo: Dudi Vaaknin)
The goal of launching negotiations, he said, is to make peace, not determining what the other side's real intentions are. ''We are interested in peace, not in the industry of peace ... not in helping Syria pretend that it's a peace-loving country,'' Olmert said.
Asked if Israel would be willing to withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace Olmert only said that if there was a change within the Syrian leadership, they would find Israel ready to talk and that when they began negotiations the Syrians would know what Israel was willing to compromise on.
'I believe sanctions on Iran are effective'
The prime minister also urged the international community to increase its pressure on Iran as the deadline for Tehran to halt its uranium enrichment activities ran out.
''Today is the last day that was designated by the international community and by UN Security Council Resolution 1737," he said, "therefore the international community will have to think of additional measures.''
"My personal view is that the sanctions that were already applied and other measures taken by the international community, including economic sanctions are effective. They influence and they make an important contribution to what may eventually appear as a new perception of opportunities and realities for the Iranians. It's not enough; a lot more has to be done."
Officials at the UN nuclear watchdog agency on Wednesday were putting the finishing touches on a report expected to say that Iran has expanded its enrichment efforts instead of freezing them.
Olmert relayed that the three-way meeting between himself, Abbas and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier this week was candid and serious. He expressed his appreciation of the American effort to advance the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Associated Press contributed to this report