Blair: Olmert and Abbas made secret deal
Blair: Olmert and Abbas made secret dealIsrael News Photo: (Flash 90)

Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair told the Al Quds Arabic-language newspaper that outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas have reached a secret but unsigned agreement.

Israeli law forbids Prime Minister Olmert from making any significant changes in policy while he heads the transitional government prior to new elections in February. However, verbal agreements likely will serve as a de facto starting point for the next government.

In the Al Quds article, translated in the Huffington Post, Blair is quoted as saying, "The continuous meetings between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and [Israeli leader] Olmert as well as the continuous negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli teams has [sic] produced an agreement."

Blair added that he is abiding by the decision of Olmert and Abbas not to reveal details. Prime Minister Olmert remains prime minster until a new government is formed, which probably will take at least several days, if not weeks, after the elections. Abbas's term officially ends on January 8, but he has maintained that the law allows him to remain for another year until new legislative elections take place.

Any secret agreement presumably includes the status of Jerusalem and the demand of the PA for the immigration to Israel of several million Arabs who claim they are descendants of Arabs who once lived in Israel.

The office of the Prime Minister previously has denied several reports that he and Abbas have discussed the status of the city. Abbas's "red line" is that a new Arab state be proclaimed with Jerusalem as its capital.

Olmert has maintained that population centers such as Ma'aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion will remain in Israel in return for Israel's giving up land to the PA, which also would be provided with a land link connecting the Gaza region with Judea and Samaria.