Ehud Olmert said he would strengthen Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by releasing withheld tax revenues Israel has collected on the Palestinians’ behalf.
In a 40-minute presentation to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Sunday, Olmert said he was optimistic that despite the recent violence, which has led to a Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip and the collapse of the Palestinian unity government, the current circumstances present an opportunity to prop up moderate Palestinians.
Olmert said he would help support Abbas by establishing regular contacts with him and by transferring tax revenues Israel has collected on behalf of the Palestinians but has refused to turn over for fear they would wind up in terrorist hands.
Olmert also said he would talk to Abbas, who most Western states view as a moderate alternative to the extremism of Hamas, “about the political horizon for what will eventually be the basis of a permanent agreement” with Israel.
The purpose, Olmert said, is to show the Palestinians that “when they are ready to refrain from terror there is genuine chance for a better life.”
Olmert also said that international sanctions to contain the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon were effective but insufficient, and that he would discuss with U.S. officials ways to strengthen the sanctions regime.
Olmert is scheduled to meet with President Bush in Washington on Tuesday.