Roni Sofer
July 2, 2010 - 12:00am,7340,L-3914094,00.html

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's senior advisor's, Yitzhak Molcho and Uzi Arad, are expected to leave for Cairo on Sunday for meetings with senior Egyptian officials ahead of Netanyahu's meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington next week.

"This time, the talks with President Obama on the Palestinian issue are more important than ever," a senior state official in Jerusalem said Friday morning. "They will determine the future of the process in the region."

Jerusalem officials estimated that Netanyahu-Obama meeting on Tuesday would be important for the possibility of launching direct negotiations.

It is unclear whether Defense Minister Ehud Barak will accompany the prime minister on his trip to Washington.

Israel is looking into options to persuade Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, through Cairo, to launch direct talks. On another front, Egypt seeks to be involved in the Israeli moves in terms of easing the Gaza blockade.

State officials estimated that Abbas' decision on whether to launch direct talks would be based on the Israeli willingness to continue its settlement construction freeze after September 26.

Obama is interested in preventing an embarrassment in case the Palestinians accept the demand, but Israel resumes construction in the West Bank at the same time. Netanyahu, on his part, will try to reach a solution which would not undermine the stability of his coalition.

Amos Gilad, head of the head of Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, visited Cairo recently. Molcho and Arad's visit is aimed at examining the situation after Cairo was briefed by Ramallah about the Abbas-Obama meeting.

Egypt has stressed the importance of returning Palestinian Authority representatives to the Gaza crossings – particularly the Rafah crossing, which has been opened for 29 days now following the flotilla affair. Another issue expected to be discussed is the Egyptian initiative to resume the activity of European Union monitors.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017