Official: Olmert to Seek Palestinian Peace Deal Before Leaving Office

Further to the previous post, this could accelerate things significantly. As they do with everything, Hamas is declaring it victory, as if they had anything to do with it!!

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will try to reach an agreement in peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before a new government takes office, an official close to the premier told Reuters on Thursday.

Olmert announced on Wednesday that he would not run in his centrist Kadima party’s Sept. 17 leadership contest and would resign to allow his successor to form a new government. Until then, Olmert would remain caretaker prime minister, enabling him to push ahead with the peace talks, possibly for months.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the prime minister intended on “reaching agreement with the Palestinians during the time he has left.”

“Any agreement he reaches with the Palestinians won’t be a personal agreement and he will make sure that the [new] Kadima leadership is briefed and on board,” the official added.

Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators plan to continue talks toward a peace deal despite Olmert’s announcement on Wednesday, a Palestinian official said on Wednesday.

“We decided today that we are going to continue pursuing to reach an agreement before the end of the year,” the negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told reporters after Israeli and Palestinian officials met U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Abbas sees Olmert’s decision to resign as an “internal Israeli matter” and will work with his successor, a spokesman said.

“This is an internal Israeli matter. The Palestinian Authority deals with the prime minister of Israel, regardless if he is Olmert or somebody else,” said Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah. “The concern of the Palestinian authority is to have an Israeli prime minister who is committed to peacemaking.”

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri called Olmert’s announcement “a victory” for the Islamist group, which controls the Gaza Strip.

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