The stage is set at the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh today for a summit that could boost President Mahmoud Abbas’s relations with Israel, but heighten tensions with his bitter rivals in Hamas. The conference begins a day after Israel agreed to transfer hundreds of millions of euros to Abbas’s new government.
But aides to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have indicated Israel is reluctant to remove roadblocks and other West Bank restrictions to further boost Abbas’s administration until he does more to curb militants. The new government was formed after the Islamist Hamas drove Abbas’s Fatah group out of Gaza.
While shoring up the moderate Palestinian President is the short term aim of the summit, the gathering, which includes Jordan’s King Abdullah and the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, is also seen as a chance to relaunch the stalled Israeli/Palestinian peace process.
Olmert is expected to outline some further measures to bolster the emergency government, but no details have been given. At the same time Israel is planning to put further pressure on Hamas, cutting off all but humanitarian aid for Gaza. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has vowed the group’s economic isolation will not force it to give up power.