Jenin rescue creates optimism for PM-Abbas talks

Livni: Action proves PA growing stronger against terrorism; Olmert, PA leader to meet in Jericho.

abbas Olmert jericho 224 (photo credit: AP [file])
abbas Olmert jericho 224
(photo credit: AP [file])
The rescue by Palestinian Authority security personnel of an IDF officer who lost his way in Jenin on Monday will likely be acknowledged and improve the atmosphere at Tuesday's meeting in Jerusalem between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli diplomatic officials said Monday evening. According to the officials, had the PA security personnel not stepped in, and the IDF officer been either killed by a lynch mob or taken captive, the meeting probably would have been canceled. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who met Monday evening in Jerusalem with PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, praised the PA security forces. "These types of actions prove the growing strength of the Palestinian government and its forces in the field against terrorism," she said at the beginning of the meeting. "Terrorism aims at damaging common efforts by the moderate forces in Israel and the PA to bring about an improvement in the security situation in the region." Livni said actions such as these could stop the deterioration of the security situation and save Israeli and Palestinian lives. Abbas and Olmert were scheduled to meet at noon Tuesday at the prime minister's residence. This was their second meeting this month; they last met August 6 in Jericho. Officials in the Prime Minister's Office denied press reports that the two were dealing with fine details of an agreement of principles that they hope to sign at a US-sponsored international meeting later in the fall, including negotiation over a safe passage from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, the officials continue to use only vague catch phrases to explain what the sides are discussing, including "fundamental issues," a "political horizon" and "a framework of understanding of issues concerning both sides," without defining exactly what any of that means. This has led to weeks of speculation about what issues are being discussed, and various reports of what percentage of the West Bank Israel is committing itself to withdrawing from. The Prime Minister's Office consistently denies these reports but continues to speak only in the vaguest terms about what is being discussed. One diplomatic official said Olmert and Abbas were discussing the core issues of Jerusalem, refugees and borders, with the hope of coming up with parameters on these issues that the two sides could agree to. One example of this would be a general agreement to divide sovereignty over Jerusalem, with the exact details of which neighborhoods would remain part of Israel and which would become part of a future Palestinian state to be dealt with later. But the source stressed that any agreement would only be one of principle, with implementation delayed until the PA was able to exert its control over the West Bank and Gaza. Abbas and Olmert are also expected to discuss how plans for the US-sponsored international meeting are shaping up and who will likely attend. While Saudi Arabia is widely considered a key component of the conference, Riyadh has not yet said it will attend. Livni and Fayad agreed to intensify economic and civilian cooperation between Israel and the PA, and agreed on the establishment of working groups dealing with common socioeconomic and environmental issues. They also agreed to establish meetings between municipal heads and the heads of various organizations to further common projects. The two, who last met at the end of July, agreed to continue meeting at regular intervals.