Thursday, August 28, 2008
Abbas-Olmert Meeting Sunday Amid Signs of Secret Deal
Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet on Sunday amid growing signs that the Israeli leader is trying to complete the outline for a new Arab state before he leaves office. PA sources said they will discuss the status of Jerusalem and the PA "right of return" demand that involves allowing millions of foreign Arabs to immigrate. Water resources also will be discussed American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hinted a deal is in the works during her visit to Israel this week. At her meeting with Abbas in Ramallah, she "proposed new ideas related to the peace process," Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rdneh said. "The coming weeks will be very decisive," he added.
Prime Minister Olmert is taking advantage of the summer vacation, when most Israelis are vacationing, the Knesset is out of session and he is free to act without worrying about keeping his coalition government together. The Prime Minister already has said he will step down from office after the Kadima party chooses a new leader in primary elections next month.
He recently said that negotiations with the PA must be kept secret and not in the eye of the media.
The editor of a leading PA newspaper believes that Secretary Rice, Prime Minister Olmert and Abbas are cooking up a surprise to satisfy President Bush's desire to reach a final agreement before he leaves office in January.
Hafith Barghouthi, the chief editor of the daily Hayat Al-Jadidah, wrote on Wednesday, "It seems a political 'meal' is being cooked on fire behind the scenes…. The fact that Rice met with both negotiation teams separately, then together proves what she said in the press conference about both sides abstaining from negotiating in front of the media. All this indicates that the negotiations are serious," he wrote.
It seems a political 'meal' is being cooked on fire behind the scenes.
A final agreement on a new Arab state within Israel's current borders would not necessarily be accepted by the government but would serve as a working document for the successor to American President George W. Bush following American elections in November.
Putting an agreement in writing, regardless of its being impractical to carry out today, would be significant, a PA negotiator told WorldNetDaily reporter Aaron Klein this week. The negotiator said, "Papers are very important. It puts limits on the new prime minister…. Olmert told us his goal is to reach an agreement on paper."
Sunday's meeting between Olmert and Abbas, the second this month, offers further evidence that Secretary Rice's 24-hour visit earlier this week was more than a routine attempt to bridge the gaps separating the two sides.
Earlier this month, the Hebrew daily Haaretz revealed that Prime Minister Olmert offered Abbas 93 percent of Judea, Gaza and Samaria, including parts of Jerusalem, along with a Negev land swap and free passage between Gaza and Judea and Samaria.