'Nothing but the Truth'

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Following Tuesday's meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the two sides issued diametrically opposed statements.

Which one is telling the truth?

Olmert insisted that "Jerusalem wasn't discussed," while Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and his colleagues said it was.

"The issue of postponing the discussion on Jerusalem to the end of the negotiations was not brought up in talks between me and [PA Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas," Olmert said following the meeting.

"The issue was not brought up this evening," echoed an Israeli official on behalf of the prime minister. "You may draw any conclusions you wish, but the prime minister's position is that the issue of Jerusalem is the most problematic. If this issue is brought up now, the negotiations will end," he said.

That's not all that will end.

Should the ultra-Orthodox Shas party keep its promise to leave the government once the division of Jerusalem is on the table, the current coalition will be a thing of the past.

And according to a senior member of the Labor party close to party chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, when Shas leaves the coalition, they will follow.

"Labor won't stay in a leftist government that relies on the Arab parties," he said, after Shas party chairman Eli Yishai threatened to quit the government over negotiations on "core issues," including Jerusalem's future.

At that point, Israelis will have the opportunity to elect a new government, and the division of Jerusalem will cease to be an issue, at least for the foreseeable future.

And that's where the rubber meets the road for Ehud Olmert. Carefully crafted statements to the media are meant to keep him and his ministers in office as long as possible.

Meanwhile, following Tuesday's meeting, Erekat and his colleagues in the Palestinian Authority said otherwise.

"The meeting dealt with all the issues pertaining to a final-status agreement, including Jerusalem," said the seasoned PA negotiator.

"We're not talking about the snow in Jerusalem, but rather we're talking about the settlement activity in Jerusalem," another PA official added.

"We make it clear to the Israeli side that all the construction in Jerusalem is illegal in our view and that in the future, this construction will either be razed or handed over to the Palestinians," one official told YNet.

Ironically, it's the Palestinians who believe it's in their best interest not to mince words.

Few Israelis are convinced that members of its government are speaking as forthrightly.

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Tzippe Barrow

Tzippe Barrow

CBN News - Jerusalem Bureau

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