They discussed developments in the Middle East, the Arab initiative, and the Palestinian issue.

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today (Monday), 7 May 2007, met with German Foreign Minister Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The two men discussed developments in the Middle East, the Arab initiative, and the Palestinian issue.

Prime Minister Olmert made it clear that he views as positive the developments in the Arab world, led by the moderate Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, and noted their willingness to bring about a peace agreement that includes recognition of the State of Israel. The Prime Minister emphasized the central role of Saudi Arabia, which has great influence on the Palestinians and on the moderate Arab states. He reiterated that Israel’s unambiguous position is non-acceptance of the right of return as expressed in the Arab initiative.

On the Palestinian issue, the two men discussed ways of strengthening moderate elements, as opposed to extremists, in the Palestinian Authority. Prime Minister Olmert explained the great danger that Kassam rocket fire poses to Israel. He emphasized that Israel will respond severely to continued fire that threatens civilian lives in the northern Negev: "The Kassam attacks constitute a tangible threat to Israel.  Israel cannot show restraint forever," he said.

Prime Minister Olmert said that the American proposals regarding Israeli and Palestinian benchmarks are being considered and added that Israel will finalize its position shortly. However, the Prime Minister noted that some of the proposals are already being implemented – such as at the Karni and Rafiah crossings. He explained the importance of confidence-building measures in order to show the Palestinian civilian population that changes are taking place.