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Israelis-Palestinians: Signs of Hope

There are signs of hope for reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A day after Palestinians elected Mahmoud Abbas to be the new president of the Palestinian Authority, U.S. President George Bush invited Palestinian President-elect to Washington for talks -- and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says he will soon invite Mr. Abbas to a face-to-face meeting.

The Israeli Prime Minister met with his cabinet Tuesday, a day after his new coalition government was sworn in. He said he would be calling Mahmoud Abbas, the newly elected president of the Palestinian Authority, to propose that they hold an in-person meeting in the near future.

On his way into the cabinet session, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, whose Labor Party is now part of the ruling coalition, was optimistic about the prospects for peace, but cautioned there will be difficulties within the Israeli government.

He said, "It's better to have difficulties and peace than not having difficulties and not having peace."

Israel's other Deputy Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, who is a member of Mr. Sharon's Likud party, said the government still plans to implement the Prime Minister's Gaza disengagement plan on schedule.

That presents a new chance to get the internationally backed "Road Map" peace plan back on track, says White House spokesman Scott . "The President has met with both of these leaders in the past and he believes both leaders are committed to moving forward on the two-state vision. We have a very unique opportunity before us, and it's time to seize that opportunity and President-elect Abbas said just that in his phone conversation with the president yesterday," he said.

Mr. McClellan stressed that President Bush remains committed to his vision of two states -- Israel and Palestine -- living side by side in peace. Meanwhile, in the West Bank town of Ramallah late Monday, Mr. Abbas attended a reception for European Union election monitors. He told the group Palestinians are ready for peace.