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PM Olmert, PA's Abbas Meeting in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Olmert and PA Chairman Abbas are meeting Tuesday under a haze of contradictory public messages regarding the agenda.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 2/19/2008, 12:19 PM

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the leader of the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria, Mahmoud Abbas, are to meet Tuesday evening under a haze of contradictory public messages regarding the agenda. While Olmert insisted this week that the status of Jerusalem is not yet on the table, Abbas said it can no longer wait.  Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
Abbas and other PA officials said that talks on Jerusalem cannot be delayed any longer.
said that the substance of the Israel-PA negotiations "should not be disclosed."

The Jerusalem encounter will be the latest in a series of meetings between Olmert and Abbas as promoted by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last year.

In reaction to speculation that the government has already conceded parts of Jerusalem to the PA, Prime Minister Olmert said that the city will not be discussed until the final phase of negotiations. "Jerusalem will be the last issue to be negotiated. It has been discussed and so agreed between me and the president of the Palestinian Authority," Olmert told delegates from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Sunday night.

This past week, though, Abbas and other PA officials said that talks on Jerusalem cannot be delayed any longer. "The negotiating process has begun and it involves all of the 'core issues' - the issue of borders, the issue of refugees, and the issue of Jerusalem," Abbas said following a meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Ramallah.

Meanwhile, in a letter to Jerusalem City Councilman Nir Barkat, Foreign Minister Livni wrote that the negotiations between the PA and Israel will include all issues of dispute, with no interim agreements scheduled. However, she added, the substance of the Israel-PA negotiations "should not be disclosed."  Speaking in the Knesset on Monday, Livni angrily said that she will continue negotiations with the PA despite continuing Kassam rocket attacks. She assured the MKs that she is not "playing Santa Claus or some uncle giving out perks" to the PA.

In his opening remarks at the Jerusalem Conference on Tuesday morning, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yonah Metzger turned to Foreign Minister Livni and asked that she use her role as "chief negotiator with our enemies" to prevent Jerusalem from being divided. "You come from a family of lovers of Israel who was raised on the values of the completeness of the land," he said. "Jerusalem is above and beyond this conflict."

PA to Offer Ceasefire
A senior PA negotiator, Saeb Erekat, complained that the pace of talks was too slow. He also told the press this week that the issue of Jerusalem would not be discussed on Tuesday. Abbas would propose "a mutual and full calm in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank," Erekat told the PA official radio station on Monday. He did not clarify how Abbas, the leader of the Fatah terrorist organization, would guarantee an end to Kassam rocket attacks from Gaza, which is controlled by the rival Hamas terrorist group.

As Fatah leaders Abbas and Erekat are discussing the agenda of peace negotiations, Fatah's al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades terrorist organization has formed a new cell named after Hizbullah mastermind and arch-terrorist Imad Mughinyeh, according to WorldNetDaily. Mughniyeh was killed in a car bombing in Syria last week. Israel has been credited with the elimination of the wanted arch-terrorist, but no confirmation has been forthcoming from Jerusalem.