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The finger on the invisible hand

Sharon Warms to New Palestinian Leader

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, phoned Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian President, today to offer congratulations on Abbas’s election victory. While they only spoke for 10 minutes, the phone conversation was the highest level contact between the Israeli and Palestinian governments in years. "Mr. Abbas and Mr. Sharon spoke about ways to revive the peace process and about a meeting between the two, which will be set up in the next few days," said a spokesman for Abbas.

"This first meeting is very, very important"

Sharon and Abbas met in 2003 hoping for a positive relationship, but Abbas gave up in frustration after finding Arafat to be too controlling. A Sharon aid said that Mr. Abbas and Mr. Sharon were hoping they could set a date to meet in the near future.

Upon that date, Sharon would be looking for what every world leader looks for in a relationship. Sharon will be trying to discover if Abbas will be able to provide him with security. "This first meeting is very, very important," the Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, said in an interview today. "It should be well prepared; we should make sure that the outcome is a positive one."

Religious and ethnic differences are still going to be a major problem.

Trust issues definitely have to be going through Abbas’s head. After being hurt by Arafat, can Sharon ever trust a Palestinian again? It is apparent from his refusal to speak to Arafat before his death that Sharon still was unable to forgive him for four years of vicious fighting. But with 1/3 of his party losing faith in him and at the age of 76, Sharon must be feeling the pressure of the clock.

Always a problem in a new relationship, religious and ethnic differences are still going to be a major problem. But world leaders have urged Abbas and Sharon to take this opportunity. President Bush has also invited Abbas to the White House for relationship advice, and Bush obviously would provide some exceptional advice, considering his affectionate relationship with Tony Blair.

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