Photo: AP
Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. Arriving in Israel
Photo: AP
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Might meet Rice
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Photo: Ofer Amram
Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Will meet Suleiman
Photo: Ofer Amram
Egyptian intelligence chief to visit Israel
Omar Suleiman to meet with Olmert, Peretz; Israel expects him to bring tidings on potential negotiations with Palestinians
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is slated to meet with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman Wednesday afternoon. Suleiman is scheduled to meet Defense Minister Amir Peretz and National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.


Israel is expecting Suleiman to bring with him information about potential negotiations with the Palestinians, especially after Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh embarked on a trip around the Middle East, including visits to Cairo and Rabat Amon.


Suleiman's messages to Israel will deal with the progress of contacts for the establishment of a national unity government in the Palestinian Authority.


Such a government has been lauded as a basis for opening political talks between Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.


However, it is unclear whether a unity government will indeed be achieved. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has told Jordan that unity talks with Hamas have hit a "dead end" and he will pursue other options, a senior Palestinian official said on Tuesday.


Suleiman has been involved in contacts with Hamas in the last four months in order to release kidnapped Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit. Suleiman met many times during this period with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal in Damascus and Cairo.


Bush coming to Mideast

In addition to the Israeli-American demand to release Shalit, Suleiman has conveyed Hamas' demands to release more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails. It is more than likely that the issue of releasing the soldier will come up in the meetings Wednesday between Suleiman and the Israeli political and defense elite.


After Olmert's conciliatory speech Monday in Sde Boker, Jerusalem is also expecting that the political dialogue in the region will start to gain momentum. Suleiman's visit is expected to jumpstart the process.


Israel sees Egypt as an important intermediary in the Palestinian issue. Israel was to encourage the involvement of Cairo and Amman, as well as Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, in their contacts with the Palestinians. This is part of Israel's policy of cooperation with moderate Arab states in the Middle East.


Suleiman's visit to Israel falls at the same time as President George Bush is slated to arrive in the Middle East, and it doesn't seem that this is incidental. Bush arrives Wednesday in Amman from Riga, Latvia where he will be participating in a NATO summit conference.


Bush's visit, together with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on the surface is not intended to deal directly with negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.


The declared purpose of the visit is Bush's meeting with Iraqi President Maliki, along with the King of Jordan. However, given America's level response to the ceasefire and Olmert's speech, Rice is likely to meet with Olmert.


Suleiman is scheduled to stay in Israel one day only. At this stage, Israel has not reported whether he is slated to meet with Abbas in Ramallah.


פרסום ראשון: 11.28.06, 19:39
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