Olmert, Abbas to meet on Monday

PM at GA: As long as I'm PM, I'll spare no effort to advance the peace process.

olmert abbas nice 224 88 (photo credit: GPO [file])
olmert abbas nice 224 88
(photo credit: GPO [file])
Despite the surge in violence in Gaza, and opposition within Kadima to his role as a negotiator, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert plans to meet Monday afternoon with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. His party, including its new leader Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, have already said that they aren't bound by his agreements. But Olmert, with the backing of Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, has insisted that he has the authority to hold negotiations for final status agreement. On Sunday he told Jewish leaders from around the world gathered in Jerusalem for the General Assembly, "As long as I am prime minister, I will spare no effort to make the necessary progress to advance the peace process." But with an eye to the February 10 elections, opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday continued to put a damper on Olmert's efforts. Netanyahu, who is a strong contender to replace Olmert, reiterated his intention to take the talks with the Palestinians in a different direction. Speaking at the Jewish Agency's meeting, prior to the General Assembly, Netanyahu said he preferred an economic approach to peace and that a government under his leadership would work to boost the Palestinian economy as a springboard for - and alongside - diplomatic talks. "We need to make peace from the bottom up, rather than the top down, by improving the lives of Palestinians so that they have a stake in peace," he said. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in response that Netanyahu's approach would destroy the peace effort because the US-sponsored talks that began last year were designed to achieve a treaty on all outstanding issues between Israel and the Palestinians. "The time to speak about economics and fragmentation is over," Erekat fumed. "It seems to me that if Mr. Netanyahu thinks this is the course, he is closing the door to any chance for peace." Allison Hoffman contributed to this report.