Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas when the two met in Jericho on Monday that he is ready to begin talks aimed at birthing a Palestinian Arab state on Israel's biblical heartland.
“I came here in order to discuss with you the fundamental issues outstanding between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, hoping that this will lead us soon into negotiations about the creation of a Palestinian state,” Ha'aretz quoted Olmert as saying at the outset of the meeting.
Olmert and Abbas got together in an effort to lay substantial groundwork ahead of a major peace summit to be held under US auspices this fall.
Israel and the Palestinians want to achieve the “maximum possible mutual understandings on a two-state solution prior to the summit in the fall and in a way that will not endanger the entire process,” an Israeli government source told the newspaper.
The Olmert government and its benefactors in Washington are keen to bolster Abbas against Hamas' growing power and influence by quickly concluding a final status peace agreement they believe will make the Palestinian leader appear more capable among his people.
Meanwhile, the head of research at Israel's Military Intelligence, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz told the cabinet on Sunday that Abbas' rule in the West Bank and its ability to keep a lid on Hamas there depends almost entirely on Israeli military action against the Islamic terror group.