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The meeting was meant to give a high-profile boost of support to Abbas. Olmert was expected to offer the PA chairman a series of goodwill gestures, including the release of some of the hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian tax funds, held since Hamas's January 2006 election victory.
Olmert repeated his stance that he was ready to discuss a Saudi initiative offering a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel in exchange for a withdrawal from all territories captured in the Six Day War.
"22 Arab states have said they want to make peace with Israel and to recognize it," he said. "This is new music to my ears and I want to listen to it."
But he said such negotiations were no substitute for direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. "It's not going to be simple and not going to be easy," he said. "It's going to be a long and painful road."
"Nothing will be simple, but I think the duty I have as the prime minister of the state of Israel and representative of all the Jewish people who share with us the hope that something will change is to try to make every possible effort to try to establish a credible process," he said. "That is what I will do in the coming weeks."
The prime minister played down expectations ahead of the summit. "Don't wait impatiently tonight for the outcome as if at the end of the day you are going to see us sitting and signing a peace treaty. It will take time," he said.
Still, he said the meeting was significant because the entire Arab world "will see two very prominent national leaders shaking hands with the head of the Palestinian Authority and the prime minister of the state of Israel, together, expressing a genuine desire to build up a process focusing not on terror, not on hatred, not on rejection, not on fighting each other, but on making peace."
"This is the thrust of this meeting," he added.
Olmert said the Palestinian infighting had not brought any joy to Israel. "You don't like to think there can be such hatred and intolerance."
The prime minister continued by saying that it was "hard to see" what Hamas had done for its people - but that this was "not unexpected."
"I remember saying regarding the Mecca agreement that I doubted its ability to survive, he said"
Olmert also spoke about the outcome of the Second Lebanon War and the blow to Hizbullah. "During my recent holiday in the North there was quiet. Hizbullah was not there and people told me that there hadn't been quiet like that in the North for 40 years."
AP contributed to this report
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