WASHINGTON – Former Meretz
Chairman Yossi Beilin, who retired
from politics recently, met with senior officials in the office of US President-elect Barack Obama in Washington.
Beilin told Ynet on Friday night that following the meetings, he has reached the conclusion that in spite of the difficult problems the new American administration will have to deal with, the issue of advancing peace between Israel
and the Palestinians and Syrians will be at the top of its agenda.
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The former minister also met with outgoing US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The outgoing and new administration officials were interested in hearing Beilin's opinion, as the former deputy foreign minister was the person who initiated the London and Oslo talks 15 years ago, which led to the Oslo Accords, and was the main initiator of the Geneve Accord.
Among the officials Beilin met with was Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security advisor under President George H.W. Bush and has been advising Obama on issues related to national security in general and the Middle East in particular.
Syrians or Palestinians first?
The former Meretz chairman met Friday with two close advisors of the newly-appointed secretary of state, Hillary Clinton – former President Bill Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and his National Security Advisor Samuel "Sandy" Berger.
"My impression was that in spite of the other problems, the Middle East issue is one of the new administration's top priorities. There are still dilemmas on how to handle our issue – whether to focus on the Palestinian channel or the Syrian channel first, or to go for an overall solution," Beilin told Ynet.
Outgoing US President George W. Bush is scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Friday. Bush had hoped to hold a three-way meeting with Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
and issue a joint statement on the agreements reached so far, but the Palestinian leader opposed the idea.
Washington two weeks ago for a farewell meeting with President Bush. Now it will be Abbas' turn to arrive at the White House on his own and bid farewell to the first American president who publicly announced the need to establish a democratic Palestinian state which would live in peace alongside the State of Israel.