Olmert asks Abbas to concede right of return
Prime minister, Palestinian president agree that Saudi initiative could serve as basis for talks, but continue to disagree on issues of right of return, Jerusalem, prisoner release and settlements. Palestinian source says Abbas' meeting with Olmert was difficult, but adds he is optimistic
The two, however, did not agree on the issues of the right of return, Jerusalem, prisoner release and the settlements.
Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem told Ynet that in a meeting held recently between Olmert and a senior European diplomatic source, the prime minister made it clear that Israel's red line in the Saudi initiative, and in initiatives of other moderate Arab countries, was the implementation of the Palestinian refugees' right of return.
Dinner in Jerusalem (Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO)
Both Olmert and Abbas don’t plan to address these difficult questions regarding a permanent solution at this stage. The two leaders plan to proceed step by step according to the Road Map, in a bid to look for solutions for all the controversial issues.
During the Jerusalem meeting, Abbas once again put the Saudi initiative on the negotiation table. This happened only several hours after Prime Minister Olmert publicly supported the plan at the start of the cabinet meeting.
"We have said more than once that the Saudi initiative is an issue that we would be willing to take seriously, and we have not changed our stance," he said.
Abbas reiterated his commitment to the three Quartet conditions, which include recognizing Israel, renouncing terror and honoring past agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He also stated that he was committed to US President George W. Bush's Road Map.
Livni: Burden of proof lies on Abbas
Addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to reiterate that the refugee problem is the problem of the future Palestinian state that will be established beside Israel.
Livni will demand the Palestinian moderates such as Abbas and the future government's ministers confront terror, act for the immediate release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, prevent smuggling and work to establish two states, living side by side in peace.
Livni plans to tell the committee that Israel would be willing to work with Palestinian moderates if they succeed in separating themselves from the terrorists. She also plans to stress that the burden of proof lies on Abbas himself and his fellow moderates.
Livni will leave to Canada on Tuesday and is expected to return to Washington the next day to meet with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The two will discuss ways to implement the clauses in the Saudi peace initiative that were accepted by Israel.
A Palestinian source told Ynet that Abbas was optimistic about the prospect of talks with Israel after receiving guarantees to ease restrictions on the Palestinians from Prime Minister Olmert.
The source said that even though there were some rough patches during the meeting, the two parties agreed that talks should continue, even if a unity government is established.
The source said that Israel believes the unity government is a done deal, and that Abbas is the one who will be leading talks.
"The Israelis promised to keep working with the president and promote matters, first and foremost is a line of concessions for the Palestinian public," said the source.
Ali Waked contributed the to report