The Palestinian Authority’s top peace negotiator said the police investigation of Ehud Olmert could stymie talks with Israel.
“The developments in the Israeli political system and the investigation could make it difficult to conclude an agreement this year,” Ahmed Queria, a former Palestinian Authority prime minister, said in a speech Saturday.
Olmert has denied wrongdoing in his ties with Morris Talansky, an American fund-raiser at the center of an Israeli police probe into bribery allegations. But the Israeli prime minister also pledged Thursday to resign if he is indicted.
An Olmert ouster could trigger snap elections favoring right-wing former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister also could take a leave of absence, in which case Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni – Queria’s counterpart in the negotiations – would assume Israel’s top office.
The United States wants Olmert and Abbas to sign a peace accord before President Bush leaves office in January. Bush will visit Israel Wednesday to Friday to give the talks a final, personal push.
“I am not optimistic that an agreement can be concluded this year, but I am also not pessimistic,” Queria said.