British PM in Israel, Meeting with Olmert, Abbas

British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Israel Sunday night for talks with top Israeli government officials as well as PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Hana Levi Julian and Hillel Fendel, | updated: 09:32

Blair, who has said he would retire within months, began his day Monday with a trip to Ramallah to meet with Abbas. The visit is seen as a public relations visit designed to increase the PA chairman’s standing. Blair presented no new ideas, but said that a new international initiative to solve the Middle East impasse would be forthcoming in a matter of weeks.

Ramallah was the scene of fierce Arab infighting on Saturday as Hamas and Fatah terror groups vie for control of the government.

The British Prime Minister is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon and evening separately with Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, all in Jerusalem. Olmert and Blair will hold a joint press conference and take part in a Chanukah candle-lighting ceremony at 8 PM.

Blair’s meetings will essentially carry a unified theme, according to political sources – namely, that the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza terror groups is an opportunity that needs to be exploited, not ignored.

Last week, Blair told reporters at a news conference in London that PA Arabs were faced with only two options: moving ahead with a unity government, or settling for an interim body that will run the government’s daily affairs until new elections can be arranged.

A spokesman for Blair said today that Britain would be willing to transfer money to the PA if it could be ensured that the money would not reach Hamas.