Olmert, Abbas to Discuss Nature of Palestinian State

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the future of a Palestinian state. According to a political source in Jerusalem, Olmert and Abbas' aides will engage in talks in the coming weeks in preparation for the talks.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said yesterday that Israel will have to carry out territorial withdrawals in the West Bank for a Palestinian state to be established. "I represent the majority in Israel, and therefore I can say that the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip will not be the last step," Livni told the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram.

She added that a majority of Israelis support a two-state solution, but the final borders must be determined through negotiations. Livni attributed the lack of progress in negotiations toward peace and the failure to establish a Palestinian state to "the inability of the moderates in the Palestinian Authority to fight terror."

Foreign Ministry officials expressed satisfaction this weekend from the expected visit in the coming weeks to Israel by an Arab League delegation consisting of the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres this weekend said the Saudi peace plan, on which the Arab peace plan is based, is a "historic declaration." He said it represented "the first time a large Arab state - King Abdullah of Saudi Arabi - has decided to move from a strategy of war to a strategy of peace," Peres told a visiting United States delegation.

King Abdullah of Jordan is due to meet with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah today, while on Tuesday Prime Minister Olmert will attend the Petra Conference of Nobel Laureates, where he will meet with Abdullah. It is not clear whether Abbas will attend the meeting.

This coming weekend Livni will attend the World Economic Forum on the Middle East ("Davos in Jordan") on the Hashemite Kingdom's side of the Dead Sea, where she will meet with senior Jordanian and European officials.

Yoav Stern adds: In a New York Times op-ed published Friday, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called on Israel "to seek a comprehensive solution based on the Arab Peace Initiative."