Negotiators to tackle core issues

PMO: Process to "begin shortly;" Lieberman aides say he views developments "gravely."

Olmert Abbas discuss 224 (photo credit: GPO)
Olmert Abbas discuss 224
(photo credit: GPO)
Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams will be instructed to start talking about core issues such as Jerusalem, the refugees and the contours of a future Palestinian state, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decided after a meeting in Jerusalem Tuesday. "The two leaders decided to allow negotiating teams to conduct direct talks on all core issues," Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev said. "We expect that the process will begin shortly." Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced earlier this week that he would quit the government and pull Israel Beiteinu out of the coalition if core issues were put on the negotiating table. Lieberman views Tuesday's developments "gravely" and will request explanations from the PM but he understands that the negotiations are not going to begin until after President Bush leaves, sources close to the minister of strategic affairs said. He will not cause a coalition crisis while Bush is in Israel, they said. Sources close to Olmert said that they didn't expect Lieberman to leave because the development wouldn't change anything, since the negotiating teams have been discussing core issues since the talks commenced. Main right-wing bloc party Likud called on Israel Beiteinu and Shas to quit the coalition following the new development. The party's spokeswoman issued a statement saying "Shas sold Jerusalem in order to get the religious affairs ministry."