PM: High Arab Turnout at Annapolis Summit Was a 'Big Achievement'

Livni, at a Kadima faction meeting, says she hopes the Arab world will take a more active role in negotiations.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a Kadima faction meeting Monday that he considered last week's Annapolis peace summit to be a success, citing the high turnout from Arab states.

"I know that from the beginning, people tried to minimize and discount Annapolis, but the presence of 40 states at the foreign minister level, along with all the leading Arab states, at an event with the declared goal of making peace with Israel - that is a big achievement," he said.

In his first meeting with Kadima MKs since the summit, Olmert said that he hopes "negotiations, under the management of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, will progress, with the serious intention of reaching an agreement that will permit the implementation of Kadima's basic solution - two states for two peoples."

For her part, Livni expressed hope that the global community will demand the Arab world "get off the fence" and get more involved in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Olmert highlighted the speech U.S. President George W. Bush delivered at Annapolis, in which he presented Annapolis as a starting point for peace between the Arab states and Israel.

"I don't remember many similar positions, in which Israel stands side by side with Arab states. This presence creates a possibility, and without a doubt opens a door to a positive horizon," the prime minister said.

Cabinet approves Annapolis document

The cabinet approved Sunday the joint statement presented by Israel and the Palestinian Authority at the Annapolis summt, which commits the sides to seek a comprehensive peace agreement by the end of 2008.

Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) and Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), who led the opposition to the summit in the weeks before it took place, criticized the declaration. Yishai and other Shas ministers voted against approving it, while Lieberman left before the vote was taken. Yishai said the summit was unnecessary and that it was a pity it had taken place.

After the cabinet meeting Lieberman met with Olmert, who updated him on developments related to the summit. Lieberman once again presented his party's "red lines" vis-a-vis political negotiations.

Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Livni, who were at Annapolis, discused the event during the meeting. Livni enumerated three successes at the summit: The political process is still tied to the road map, Israel has not been restricted in terms of the core issues, and international involvement in the negotiations has been avoided.