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Iran, Palestinians, Will Top US-Israel Summit Agenda


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has arrived in the United States for a White House summit with President Bush on Monday. The meeting comes at a time of growing tension between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Mr. Olmert and President Bush will discuss two key issues - the situation with the Palestinians and Iran's nuclear program.

On the Palestinian issue, Mr. Olmert does not have much to offer. He shelved the centerpiece of his policy-a major West Bank pullout-in the wake of the war in Lebanon.

The war, and endless Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza, have left Israelis with little enthusiasm for more territorial concessions. Further complicating matters was the election of Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel's destruction.

Israel will not deal with Hamas, but Mr. Olmert says he is ready to talk to Palestinian moderates, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen.

"I want to talk to the Palestinians," Mr. Olmert said. "I am certainly going to meet with the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Abu Mazen. I will do everything in my power to help him."

The prime minister's biggest concern is Iran's nuclear program. Israel sees that as an existential threat, considering that a year ago the Iranian president said the Jewish state should be "wiped off the map."

Mr. Olmert says that in light of the Holocaust, Israel cannot allow Iran to acquire the atom bomb.

"On the basis of the history of my people, I have not the slightest degree of tolerance to the possible threat coming," Mr. Olmert said. "I am not prepared, at any time, to acquiesce with it or tolerate it."

Israel believes the international community is moving too slowly on Iran. It was hoping for decisive action from President Bush, but now Israel fears that his hands may be tied in the wake of the Republican defeat in the U.S. elections.

Last week, Israel's deputy defense minister warned that if international efforts fail to stop Iran, Israel might launch a pre-emptive strike on its own.

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