(photo credit: AP [file])
The Palestinians will deal with any prime minister who is elected by the Israeli public, including Binyamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters in Ramallah shortly before meeting with MK Yossi Beilin, Abbas said: "We are following the political crisis in Israel with a lot of interest. We are waiting for the crisis to end. All we can do now is wait because this is an internal affair of the Israelis and we can't be involved."
Asked if he had plans to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Abbas said he did not rule out the possibility that the meeting, which was planned for next week in Jericho, may be postponed because of the crisis in Israel.
"No one has informed us yet that the meeting will be delayed or canceled," he said. "We are waiting to hear from the Israelis. We will deal with anyone who is elected by the Israelis. If they choose Binyamin Netanyahu, we will deal with him."
Referring to the case of kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit, Abbas said he expected a prisoner exchange with Israel to take place in the next two or three weeks. He revealed that Egypt, which has been acting as a mediator between the kidnappers and Israel, recently came up with a new offer to solve the case. He did not elaborate.
Abbas reiterated his opposition to the firing of rockets at Israel. He also said that he knows where kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston is being held. "We know where he is, but we want to keep him alive," he said. "It will take some time to release him safely."
Beilin, who briefed Abbas on the latest crisis in Israel following the publication of the Winograd Report on the Lebanon war, said the meeting with Abbas focused on the future of the peace process. "Olmert is apparently unable to enter real peace talks with the Palestinians," he said. "I believe he will resign soon."
Beilin expressed hope that a new government in Israel would be more moderate and that new elections in Israel would result in a majority for peace with the Palestinians.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official who also met with Beilin in Ramallah, said the Palestinian leadership was interested in launching final-status talks with Israel to achieve a two-state solution.
Abed Rabbo claimed that Abbas and the PLO, and not the Hamas-led coalition, were now in charge of the negotiations with Israel. "We must not waste any opportunity to achieve a just and comprehensive peace. The Arabs are serious about making peace with Israel. They are also serious about launching negotiations with Israel to achieve peace on the basis of the Arab peace plan."