The Tower of Jello Strikes again !!! After taking tough for two weeks, Israeli Prime Minister has gone back to his true nature–98 Pound weakling. The AP is reporting that Olmert has agreed to meet with Palestinian President and phony moderate, Abbas. US Sec. of State Condi Rice will announce meetings during a press conference Tuesday AM. So for my Israel readers I suggest you eat breakfast early, I have a feeling its going to be hard to keep those eggs down. The following is the report from the Portsmith Herald.
Israelis, Palestinians to Resume Talks
By ANNE GEARAN
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed Monday to resume open-ended, face-to-face talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a possible step toward restarting substantive peace talks, a U.S. official said.
Olmert and Abbas will initially hold low-key “confidence-building” sessions, the official said. Israel has refused substantive talks since Abbas, a moderate leader whom Israel has called a partner for peace, joined Hamas militants in a coalition government this month.
The talks between the Palestinian and Israeli leaders will be open to all issues, said the U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of a planned address by Rice on Tuesday.
Olmert’s agreement to new talks was a small step, since he had held such sessions with Abbas before the Hamas deal, but it still was seen as a sign of fresh and surprising progress toward peace talks despite the complication posed by Hamas.
When Abbas and Hamas formed their coalition government last week, Olmert said he would talk about humanitarian and other concerns if need be, but he ruled out more detailed discussions or negotiations.
Israel, the United States and the European Union consider Hamas a terrorist group.
Rice has shuttled between Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders this week, trying to rally greater Arab support for eventual peace negotiations, and to persuade Israel to be more flexible in its dealings with Abbas.
Rice held two sessions apiece with Abbas and Olmert, including a lengthy evening meeting with Olmert in her Jerusalem hotel on Monday. The agreement for new meetings with Abbas apparently came then.
She had canceled plans for an evening news conference, at which she had been expected to announce progress toward talks. She will hold that session on Tuesday instead, before returning to Washington.
Also Monday, Israel welcomed the idea of a regional peace summit, although no such meeting is set, and Saudi Arabia suggested it would consider changes in a dormant peace initiative.
The developments came at a time of high-profile diplomacy, with Rice and United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon both in the region for talks with Israeli and Arab leaders.
“I don’t intend by any means to take control of the Palestinian-Israeli bilateral dialogue,” Rice told reporters before a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. “I think it’s extremely important that that continue.”
Olmert said he “wouldn’t hesitate” to take part in a regional summit. Palestinian officials cautiously endorsed the idea.
Any such meeting – especially if Saudi and Israeli officials were to publicly meet – would be a huge symbolic breakthrough. Saudis and Israelis are believed to have held private meetings in the past year.
Rice said it was “premature to talk about any specific kind of meeting,” but another U.S. official said the idea of a large group meeting was one proposal among several under discussion.
A regional gathering would bring Israel and the Palestinians together as part of wider talks involving moderate Arab countries and four would-be Mideast peacemakers: the U.S., European Union, U.N. and Russia.
The Arab countries involved in the efforts would include Egypt and Jordan, which both have peace agreements with Israel, as well as Saudi Arabia, which does not.
Olmert said he would look at an invitation to such a summit “in a very positive manner.”
Hopes have been raised in the past, only to be dashed.
For Rice, this trip follows several months in which she has tried to put substance to President Bush’s goal of an independent Palestinian state. On this trip, Rice says she is developing a common set of questions that both sides can use for discussions with her or on their own.
The signs of progress came ahead of an Arab summit in Saudi Arabia this week, where the Saudis are expected to relaunch a 2002 proposal calling for a comprehensive peace deal between Israel and the Arab world.
Israel rejected the plan when it was first launched, objecting to its calls for a full withdrawal from all territories captured in the 1967 Mideast War, including East Jerusalem.
Israel also strongly opposes the plan’s endorsement of a right for large numbers of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to properties in what is now Israel. Israel says a large-scale return of refugees would spell the end of the country’s character as a Jewish state.
But recently, Olmert and other Israeli leaders have said the Saudi plan could be a good starting point for negotiations.
In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister suggested Monday that Arab leaders would be willing to consider changes in the 2002 peace offer to make it “compatible” with new developments.
“It is expected from us to take notice of new developments, which require additions and developments,” Saud al-Faisal said.
“The kingdom is keen that this summit should come out with one Arab voice toward issues of destiny, and in particular the Palestinian issue,” he added.