Olmert and Abbas
Photo: GPO

Race to draft declaration of principles begins

Wednesday meeting between prime minister, Palestinian president signals launch of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations towards formulating peace process guidelines ahead of US summit in November

The race to draft the joint Israeli-Palestinian declaration of principles ahead of the international summit in Annapolis, Maryland, in November started Wednesday at noon, when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met in Jerusalem.


The timetable included a tete-a-tete meeting between the two leaders, which was to be followed by a briefing of the negotiation teams on both sides.


The meeting, at the prime minister's residence, signaled the start of the collaboration between teams from both sides towards formulating the document.


The short text, of about 1-2 pages, will summarize the agreements reached over the past six meetings between Olmert and Abbas regarding Jerusalem, permanent borders, the right of return and security issues.


The document will be the basis of a future permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinian state set to be established alongside it, as delineated by US President George W. Bush's road map.


The Prime Minister's Office wants to word the document vaguely enough so as not to lead to a political meltdown in Israel, owing to objections from Yisrael Beiteinu ministers, Kadima ministers Shaul Mofaz and Avi Dichter and possibly Shas ministers.


Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Leiberman plans to define his red lines for the joint declaration of principles at the start of next week. Mofaz and Dichter have already declared on multiple occasions that the prime minister shouldn't rush into a permanent agreement that includes excessive concessions to a Palestinian leadership that is incapable of enforcing its authority in the territories.

Exchanging gestures and gifts (Photo: GPO)


Shas ministers have asked to closely examine the essence of the concessions, especially regarding Jerusalem, before the document is drafted. Other ministers are expected to mount obstacles as well: Rafi Eitan vehemently opposes dividing Jerusalem, Ehud Barak wants security guarantees and proof of Palestinian security forces' sovereignty, and Tzipi Livni does not want to acquiesce the Palestinian demand for the right of return to Israeli territory.


The team

The Israeli negotiation team is expected to include Olmert's chief of staff Yoram Turbowicz, Olmert's diplomatic adviser Shalom Turgeman, Foreign Ministry director general Aharon Abramovitch, and the Defense Minister's bureau chief Michael Herzog.


The team will lead negotiations against the Palestinian representatives, but they will be overseen by the trio of Olmert, Livni and Barak. Haim Ramon is excluded from negotiations at this stage, due to Livni and Barak's objections.


At the end of the closed meeting between Olmert and Abbas, they will instruct their teams as to the principles of the negotiations that will take place over the next few weeks, and expected to conclude towards the end of October.


Wednesday's meeting is slated to start at 11:00 am and to last about three hours.


פרסום ראשון: 10.03.07, 01:58
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