Olmert stressed that securing the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier abducted by Palestinian fighters from the Gaza Strip in June, would top the agenda of any meeting with Mahmoud Abbas.
The gesture follows the current Israeli offensive in Gaza to try to free Shalit that has killed more than 200 Palestinians, about half of them civilians.
It remains to be seen what Olmert is ready to offer to Palestinians in return to match the big sticks that have been only too evident in Gaza so far.
Right now, the Israelis have shown no interest in providing any carrot to the Palestinians, who suspect that Olmert’s gesture is no more than one of Israel’s old tactics.
Such tactics are based on rendering any future peace – based on two states – impossible, by setting parameters of commitment from the Palestinians that cannot be reconciled with the reality on the ground.
The last example was when Hamas won the Palestinian elections. The peace process hit a new obstacle when Israel made the equation that the Hamas government was a gang of terrorists and launched an all-out campaign to get rid of all Palestinian resistance.
The construction of the separation wall, detentions and assassinations of Palestinian officials, the aggressive policies of illegal settlement expansion and land confiscation, together with harassment and repression, are other examples indicative of Israel‘s determination to alter facts on the ground.
About 8,000 Palestinians are in Israeli jails and two-thirds of Palestinians in the occupied territories are living under the poverty line.
Olmert said that he is “ready to work closely with chairman of the Palestinian Authority Abbas to implement the road map”.
Western politicians labelled him the “anti-Arafat”, a Palestinian “moderate” who was seen as an acceptable partner to the Israelis
But the plan, according to many analysts, is dead and should be shelved along with the Tenet Plan, the Mitchell Report and others.
When Abbas was elected he was typically described as the man capable of reviving the peace process and rendering the daily life of his people more tolerable.
Western politicians labelled him the “anti-Arafat”, a Palestinian “moderate” who was seen as an acceptable partner to the Israelis.
Abbas tried to press for progress but found it hard to achieve a breakthrough, as no other crisis, however bloody, has quite the same characteristics as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
What is needed for the conflict to end is a strong and focused diplomatic effort in the service of peace, justice and security for both sides.
But what is even more critical is for the active participation of the so-called international community, to push for the achievement of such goals.
A lasting settlement to the conflict will necessarily require a Palestinian state side by side with the state of Israel; and recognition that the demands of the Palestinian people are no more than the reasonable demands of any other people – a land and an identity of their own.
The opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position or have the endorsement of Aljazeera.