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Israeli, Palestinian Leaders to Hold Summit Tuesday


Israeli and Palestinian leaders will hold a summit meeting on Tuesday in a fresh bid to advance the peace process. But as Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel's "go-slow" approach has left the Palestinians disappointed.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas here in Jerusalem. Both Israel and the United States want to strengthen Mr. Abbas after the violent takeover of the Gaza Strip by the Islamic militant group Hamas two months ago. Hamas routed the forces of the rival Fatah faction, led by Mr. Abbas, who now heads a moderate government in the West Bank.

President Abbas and Mr. Olmert have met regularly since the civil war in Gaza. They are trying to hammer out principles for the creation of a Palestinian state ahead of an international peace conference in the United States this fall.

"Ultimately, the Israeli government and the Palestinian government, we share a common view of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace," said Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman.

But Israel has been reluctant to discuss the thorniest issues of the conflict, creating skepticism among Palestinians.

"It is very essential to see and hear some concrete steps taken towards talking about a timeframe for solving the five permanent status issues of the Palestinian cause, namely Jerusalem, refugees, water, borders and settlements," said Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser. "And without that the people are talking about [a] peace process but not necessarily peace."

Israel's reluctance to discuss those issues may point to a lack of confidence in Mr. Abbas. His forces collapsed during the factional fighting in Gaza, earning him the reputation of a moderate Palestinian leader who cannot deliver.