Israel, P.A. negotiators work on memo

Israeli and Palestinian Authority negotiators began drafting a joint peace declaration.

Draft teams, drawn from among aides to Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, met Monday in a secret location in Israel to begin hammering out a declaration that will be made public at next month’s U.S.-sponsored conference on Palestinian statehood.

The Israeli prime minister and Palestinian Authority president formally handed down the agenda negotiations to their advisers last week in what appeared to be a strategy of avoiding top-level diplomatic commitments at this time.

Neither leader is strong enough domestically to broach tough issues such as setting borders, the status of Jerusalem or the fate of Palestinian refugees.

“There is no agreement,” Olmert told the Knesset in reference to his recent talks with Abbas. “Nothing was promised.”

He added, however, that “a spirit of mutual trust has been created” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority since Abbas broke with Hamas Islamists over their seizure of Gaza in June.

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