News Brief

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is meeting with U.S. Jewish leaders. Olmert is to meet Tuesday evening with leaders of Jewish organizations in the wake of the joint Israeli-Palestinian pledge to endeavor to achieve peace by the end of 2008.

Some groups have been unequivocally supportive of the talks in Annapolis, Md., while others have been more qualified out of the concern that the Palestinians are not ready for such an accelerated process and will be unable to meet security requirements.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States rejected recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

“There are 1.5 million civilians in Israel who do not define themselves as Jewish,” Adel al-Jubeir told reporters at the U.S.-convened Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Annapolis, Md. “We do not believe states should define themselves according to religion or ethnicity.”

Al-Jubeir said he was impressed with the scope of promises at Annapolis, particularly President Bush’s call on Israel to freeze settlements and ease Palestinian travel, but said he wanted to see “the proof in the pudding.”

He said Saudi Arabia would not recognize Israel until it had achieved peace with the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese, apparently rebuffing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s call for comprehensive peace in conjunction with the Palestinians.

Al-Jubeir did not think it was inappropriate that the Saudis refused to shake hands with the Israelis at the conference.

“This is a serious effort, we are not here for theatrics,” he said. “The time for handshakes will come when there is a peace agreement.”

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