The Palestinian President is to hold talks with Israel’s Prime Minister later today in Jericho, their first meeting inside Palestinian territory. But many analysts, like Israeli strategy consultant Yossi Alpher, believe there is a gap between what Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas will seek to discuss.
“I doubt there will be any major developments. There will be more of the same. There will be more discussions of prisoner release, transfer of funds and removing road-blocks on Israel’s part.” said Alpher, adding that there are likely then to be talks on “Palestinian progress in institution building, and stabilising a security force that could conceivably take over from Israel in parts of the West Bank.”
Israeli officials have hinted that Olmert may relax some checkpoints in the West Bank, ruled by Abbas’ moderate Fatah faction. But Palestinian law-makers such as Hannan Ashrawi say that Israel needs to offer much more if any real progress is to be made:
“First of all to stop the escalation on Israeli occupation measures, whether in terms of building a wall, continue this horrible wall, or the settlements or even the incursions and the killings and so on. We need to curb Israeli behaviour, we need to see the release of prisoners, we need to see seriousness of intent translated into action.” Ashrawi said.
Israel has already freed 250 Palestinian prisoners as it tries to give credibility to Abbas in the West Bank and, in doing so, isolate Hamas islamists who control Gaza.