The Arab League delegation composed of Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib will only arrive in Israel on July 25. The Egyptian foreign minister said they had planned to come this Thursday but postponed the visit at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's request.
J'lem, Arab League split over delegation
The Prime Minister's Office put out a statement on Monday clarifying that it was Olmert at the Sharm e-Sheikh summit last month who requested the delegation visit Israel for discussions on the Arab League peace plan.
Olmert requested any date after July 15 because of prior commitments before this date. The parties eventually agreed that the visit would take place on July 25.
The two foreign ministers were mandated by the Arab League to discuss the land-for-peace plan that was reaffirmed at the Arab League meeting in Riyadh in March.
Israel wanted the delegation to be expanded to include countries other that Egypt and Jordan, which have full ties with Israel, but this was rejected by the Arab League.
Early next week Olmert is due to hold talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The date and venue have still not been finalized.
Olmert hopes to complete the release of 250 Fatah security prisoners before the meeting. Officials from the Justice Ministry and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) are still working on completing the list of names after Olmert rejected the initial list because there were too many names of prisoners who were due to be set free within a matter of months.
On Sunday the cabinet agreed in principle that 250 Fatah prisoners who do not have blood on their hands will be released. Once the revised list is completed it will be submitted to a special ministerial committee for approval, without the need for endorsement by the full cabinet.
Olmert told Spain's leading newspaper El Pais in an interview published on Tuesday that Hamas was a "destructive, extremist force" with the sole aim of violent confrontation with Israel.
He said he did not foresee any reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.
"I personally do not believe in reconciliation between Hamas and Abu Mazen," Olmert was quoted as saying, referring to Abbas's nickname. "Abu Mazen himself has been a witness of how they were preparing to kill Palestinians with such brutality that I've never seen in my life."
Olmert is also scheduled to hold talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice next week. Rice will be in the region to attend a ministerial level meeting of the Quartet along with representatives from the European Union, Russia and the UN.
The Quartet's new envoy to the region, former British prime minister Tony Blair, is also expected to attend the Quartet gathering in Egypt, and also visit Israel and the West Bank. Officials in Jerusalem said that nothing concerning a Blair visit has been confirmed.
AP contributed to this report.