Negotiations Over 'Core Issues' Begin

Foreign Minister Livni and Arab negotiator Abu Ala will discuss 'core issues' including Jerusalem. Lieberman may resign.

Gil Ronen ,

The Temple Mount.
The Temple Mount.

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced Sunday that Israel and the PA would begin negotiations over the "core issues" of the conflict, including Jerusalem, on Monday. The talks will be held between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and PA negotiator Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala).

Official sources in Jerusalem confirmed the report.

Abbas said the talks would revolve around six issues: "Jerusalem, the settlements, the Palestinian refugees, borders, security and water sources." He added: "If we reach agreement on these issues, you could say we have an agreement."

The announcement places the political spotlight on Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), who has said he would leave the government if the "core issues" come up for discussion between Israel and the PA.  Two of Lieberman's faction members, Tourism Minister Yitzchak Aharonovich and MK Yisrael Hasson, have already been quoted as saying that Yisrael Beiteinu would have to leave the coalition.

Lieberman will meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Monday and request "clarifications" regardi
Abbas said the talks would revolve around "Jerusalem, the settlements, the Palestinian refugees, borders, security and water sources."
ng the "core issues." Analysts said that if he does not leave the government this week, he may do so if and when a decision is reached to raze the "illegal outpost" of Migron, which Olmert has said he intends to tear down.

Sources Near Olmert: Lieberman Will Stay
Sources close to Prime Minister Olmert, meanwhile, told the press they do not expect Lieberman to bolt the government. "Lieberman has no reason to leave the coalition at this time, because one cannot know how the negotiations will end, and they may well fail," the sources said.

MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) called upon Lieberman and Shas leader Eli Yishai on Sunday to "wake up at the last moment" and leave the coalition immediately.

Erdan said, "This is Lieberman and Yishai's last chance to show leadership, to make good on their promises and to defend the Israeli people from the going-out-of-business sale that Olmert is conducting for the State of Israel, just to prepare the ground for the final report of the Winograd Commission on the failed conduct of the [Second Lebanon] war."

"Lieberman and Yishai will no longer be able to hide behind the euphemism 'core issues' when everyone understands that these are concessions in Jerusalem, the destruction of communities and the return of 'Palestinian refugees,'" Erdan added.

The U.S. Roadmap to Peace, which Israel agreed to use as a blueprint for negotiations, called for a total cessation of terrorism emanating from PA territories prior to discussions about interim or permanent borders for a PA state.

PM Olmert said last week that the Israeli negotiation team would deal with all of the "core issues" and will not hesitate to make decisions that involve "painful compromises."