Photo: Reuters
Cabinet (Archive photo)
Photo: Reuters
Photo: AFP
Meeting? Abbas
Photo: AFP
Olmert, Abbas aides to meet Wednesday
Prime minister's chief of staff, foreign policy advisor expected to meet with their Palestinian counterparts in bid to promote meeting between leaders. In cabinet meeting, ministers discuss options for Gaza operation in light of Palestinian efforts to form unity government
Senior officials at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office are expected to meet Wednesday with senior officials from the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a bid to promote a meeting between the two leaders.


Meanwhile, the national security cabinet convened in light of the escalation in the firing of Qassam rockets at the southern town of Sderot and Gaza vicinity communities.


Olmert's Chief of Staff Yoram Turbowicz and Foreign Policy Advisor Shalom Turjeman are expected to meet with their Palestinian counterparts, Saeb Erekat and Rafiq Husseini.


Israel plans to attend the meeting without any preconditions for a meeting between Abbas and Olmert.


However, senior officials at Olmert's office expressed their doubts over a possible meeting between the two leaders before the establishment of a Palestinian unity government.


"Abbas is heavily pressured by Hamas," an official in Jerusalem explained. "It's hard to believe that he would be inclined to meet with Olmert before arranging things in Gaza and Ramallah."


Cabinet waiting for unity government

The cabinet ministers are discussing the Israel Defense Forces' use of force in light of the launching of Qassam rockets, which claimed a heavy toll in Sderot in the past week.


The ministers are also being briefed on the diplomatic issue in light of Abbas' difficulties to form a national unity government.


This was the first meeting to take place since the publicized crisis between Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz following a telephone conversation between the latter and Abbas.


Aides to both reported a tense atmosphere, but also a desire to diminish the tension in order to focus on efforts to stop the Qassams fired at Gaza vicinity communities and to prevent terror operations in the Gaza Strip.


Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said that he would continue to demand a decisive IDF plan to put an end to the Qassams. National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who was demanding more pressure be put on Hamas leaders, was expected to join Dichter’s demands.


Olmert believes that firmer actions should be taken in the Gaza Strip, but that it should not be entered with excessive force. This would be done until all attempts to create a diplomatic process, which would lead to a ceasefire, were exhausted.


In the meanwhile, the IDF would continue to operate specifically against the Qassam threat and against Hamas’ and other terror organizations’ growing strength in the Strip.


Peretz had several other military ideas on Qassam counter-attacks. On the other hand, he too believed diplomatic attempts should be made to solve the issue. At present, he completely opposes a wide range land operation in the Strip.


According to sources, no hearing of Minister Yitzhak Cohen’s (Shas) suggestion was expected to take place. Cohen suggested involving a multinational force in the Gaza Strip. The same sources said it was not yet time for such action.


“Implementing this idea won’t stop the various Palestinian factions from firing Qassams, but it will prevent the IDF from a possibility to respond,” the sources said.


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