Israeli, Palestinian Leaders Meet

6 08 2007

Associated Press

Jericho, West Bank – In their first meeting on Palestinian soil, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday he hopes to launch negotiations “soon” on establishing a Palestinian state, his clearest promise yet to tackle a final peace deal.

The trappings of the three-hour session were perhaps as important as the content.

Olmert became the first Israeli leader to visit a Palestinian town after seven years of bloody fighting, and Israeli and Palestinian security forces worked together to protect him, blocking all access to the five-star hotel in the biblical oasis of Jericho where the meeting took place.

Abbas, in turn, gained some stature by hosting Olmert, at least symbolically leveling the uneven relationship of occupier and occupied.

Yet despite the good will, the two sides have very different ideas about what should happen next.

The Palestinians said that after years of delay, it’s now time to start talking about the terms of Palestinian statehood, including final borders, removal of Israeli settlements and how to divide Jerusalem.

Israel wants to move ahead more slowly, in part because previous talks in 2000 collapsed over the so-called core issues and because Olmert may not be strong enough politically to make far-reaching concessions.

However, the U.S. has been prodding both sides to make progress, ahead of a Mideast peace conference in the U.S. in November. Olmert also appears eager to prop up the moderate Abbas, particularly after the Islamic militant Hamas seized Gaza by force in June, routing the forces loyal to the Palestinian president.

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One response

7 08 2007
a.m.p.

Good luck. Nothing will happen as usual.

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