There has been a positive response from the Israeli government to Mahmoud Abbas’s election. After talks with election monitor, US Senator John Kerry, the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, is reported to have repeated his wish to meet Mahmoud Abbas as soon as possible.In another significant shift in the Middle East equation, a new Israeli government with Shimon Peres’ centre-left Labour Party a main partner, is expected to take office later today. Until now, Sharon has taken care not to be seen as endorsing Abbas. But he recently said he sees this year as an opportunity for an historic breakthrough in relations with the Palestinians – sentiments shared earlier by his spokesman, Sylvan Shalom: “It’s time for a new Palestinian peace. We’re ready to be their partner.” The Palestinian Authority says it welcomes a meeting with the Israeli government but it wants assurances that it would be more than a photo opportunity.