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Israeli, Palestinian Leaders Hold Summit Meeting

03 October 2007

Israeli and Palestinian leaders are holding a summit meeting today in Jerusalem. For VOA, Robert Berger reports.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are hammering out a document on Palestinian statehood. They hope to present it at an international peace conference in the United States, planned for November.

Israeli analyst Jonathan Spyer says neither side wants to disappoint to Washington.

"Abbas, from his side, has a clear interest in the appearance of progress," said Spyer. "Olmert the same from his side. Nobody wants to rock the boat."

Both Israel and the United States want to strengthen Mr. Abbas, three months after his Fatah forces were routed by the Islamic militant group Hamas in a civil war in the Gaza Strip. Mr. Abbas now heads a moderate government in the West Bank.

But the gaps remain wide.

"Olmert's been doing his best to, all the way down the line, to prevent too much clarity," Spyer said. "Abbas, on the other hand, needs clarity above all things because the first accusation he's going to face from his own side is: ''You're being dragged along by the nose in an American and an Israeli-led process on the road to nowhere."

Mr. Olmert wants a vague statement on Palestinian statehood, because he doubts that Mr. Abbas is strong enough to deliver on a peace agreement after the collapse of his forces in Gaza. Mr. Abbas, on the other hand, wants to tackle core issues such as Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and final borders.

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