CBNNews.com - RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian Authority (PA) officials in Ramallah said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's claims of "significant progress" in the negotiations are aimed at diverting attention from his legal problems.
The officials were referring to a statement by Olmert's office after his meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
"This is a big lie," one official told Jerusalem Post Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh. "The statement was issued by Olmert's office even before President Abbas returned to Ramallah, and it came as a surprise to us. We still don't know what progress he's talking about."
"If Olmert has problems with the police because of financial corruption, that's his problem," another official said. "But," he added, "he should not use the peace talks as an excuse to divert attention from the police inquiry." "We can't talk about any changes," he said. "The only thing that happened was an exchange of views regarding the future orders of the Palestinian state."
They also expressed concern that the newest investigation against Olmert would put the peace process on hold.
Alternatively, Israel's prime minister may order the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to carry out a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip, which would also negatively affect the peace process, but would probably help the prime minister divert attention from his legal battles.
"We don't rule out the possibility of an escalation in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank," senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said. "We hope the latest developments in Israel won't be used to escalate the situation," he said.
"Any peace agreement will be postponed if new elections are held in Israel," Erekat said. "If Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni takes over, we will continue to negotiate with her," he said.
Source: The Jerusalem Post