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Israeli-Palestinian Summit Scheduled for Next Week

Israeli and Palestinian leaders will hold a summit meeting next week. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, it is the latest effort to revive the peace process, which collapsed when the Islamic militant group Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian elections over a year ago.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will hold their second summit in a less than a month. The meeting is taking place despite Mr. Olmert's disappointment that President Abbas, who is a moderate, is joining a national unity government with Hamas, a group that seeks Israel's destruction.

Israeli spokesman Mark Regev told VOA:

"Unfortunately, Hamas with its extremist, hateful positions, with its jihadist, radical theology, is just not ready for peace," he said.

Israel wants to keep the lines of communication open with Mr. Abbas, who it sees as a peace partner. But the talks will focus on humanitarian issues rather than the core problems of the Mideast conflict, such as the status of Jerusalem, refugees and final borders.

Israel says it cannot discuss those issues as long as Hamas is the ruling power and refuses to renounce violence and recognize the Jewish state.

But Mr. Abbas says Hamas has given him a green light to negotiate a final peace deal, including the creation of a Palestinian state. Palestinian legislator Saeb Erekat says the sooner the sides enter substantive negotiations, the better.

"I think now time is of the essence," he said. "And I do not think there [is] anything that should stop us from trying to open a quiet channel in order to probe the possibility of implementing President Bush's vision for a two-state solution."

Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas held a summit two weeks ago in Jerusalem with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that failed to achieve progress. But officials on both sides say the decision to meet again is a step in the right direction.