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Meetings in Jordan: Peres, Nobel Winners, Abbas, Olmert, King

For the first time, and after much talk of whether it would be possible or advisable, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet officially with PA Chairman Abu Mazen, on Thursday.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 6/21/2006, 8:04 AM / Last Update: 6/21/2006, 10:37 AM

The indefatigable Shimon Peres, initiator of the Oslo Accords, will meet with Jordan's King Abdullah in Petra, Jordan today. Tomorrow, Olmert and Abu Mazen will join the group.

Peres will take part, in Petra, in a gathering of Nobel Prize winners. He, together with Yasser Arafat and Yitzchak Rabin, won the Peace Prize in 1994 for the Oslo Accords they forged. Some 1,400 Israelis and thousands of PA Arabs have been killed since the Oslo Accords were signed.

In response to the wave of Kassam rockets that have hit Sderot of late, Peres said last week, "Despite the grave results [of the Disengagement from Gaza], which were not what we expected, we must continue [along the same path], because if not, it would have been [or, it would be] even worse."

Olmert and Abu Mazen
For the first two months after Olmert was elected in late March, the official government position was that Abu Mazen was not a potential partner for dialogue, as his word would not be recognized by the Hamas-ruled Palestinian Authority. Throughout this period, Egypt, Jordan and other countries were pressuring Israel to meet with Abu Mazen - but Israel stood basically firm.

Just a day before his departure for the U.S. a month ago, Olmert told CNN, "There is nothing I love more than negotiating with the Palestinians," but said there is no one in the PA with whom he can speak, as Abu Mazen is “powerless” to stop terrorism and can therefore not speak on behalf of the PA.

Strangely enough, at around the same time, Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni and Vice Premier Shimon Peres were meeting with Abbas in Sharm el-Sheikh.

By the time he left the U.S., Olmert had said that he would meet with Abu Mazen, but did not set any time frame. MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) said at the time, "How is it that Olmert tells the whole world on CNN that Abu Mazen is weak and has absolutely no power, and... then, the next day in Washington, Olmert calls Abu Mazen 'President' and promises to meet him - this is serious? A man who changes his mind so totally in just one day?"

Olmert and Abu Mazen have known each other for years. When Abu Mazen said, before the Israeli election, that he hopes Olmert wins, he was later forced to explain that this was not a "political endorsement," but merely a personal wish based on his acquaintance with Olmert.

Olmert has also been attacked from the left. MK Yossi Beilin, head of the ultra-left Meretz Party, said yesterday, "Olmert appears to be a manipulator who is scared of negotiations."