Israeli Knesset member Ami Ayalon met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Saturday and discussed the possibility of future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, reported Israeli sources on Saturday.  Ayalon plans on briefing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the content of the meeting.

Following the meeting, Ayalon said that in about two months time, Israel could possibly be facing a Palestinian unity government willing to conduct negotiations based on the plan put forth by jailed Palestinian leaders, which Abbas wishes to put to a popular vote. The plan would implicitly recognize Israel and includes an agreement for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, recognition of previous agreements signed with Israel and willingness to negotiate with Israel.

"We are continually surprised. It is essential that we are not surprised if we are faced with this reality in two months," said Ayalon. He added that this "reality" will make it very difficult for Israel to act unilaterally, as Olmert’s convergence plan dictates, because the international community will not allow it.

According to Ayalon, Abbas’ initiative to conduct a referendum on the prisoners’ plan is akin to a "check mate on Hamas."

Ayalon said that according to Palestinian opinion polls, 80 percent of the Palestinian public support the principles detailed in the prisoners’ plan.

"We shouldn’t view this process as bad. This could be the basis for a national Palestinian unity government. I certainly think that this plan dictates a scenario in which we will find ourselves faced with a unified Palestinian government that stands upon this plan. It will become very difficult to convince the world that we don’t have anyone to talk to," Ayalon said.

Ayalon and Abbas also discussed Israel’s announcement earlier this week that it will allow the transfer of weapons to Abbas’ forces, an announcement that angered Abbas, as such a move paints him as a collaborator with Israel.  Ayalon added that this announcement could either have been Israel’s misguided attempt to strengthen Abbas, or a direct attempt to weaken him.

As for the supposed ‘lawlessness’ reported by some sources about the Palestinian occupied territories, "My impression is that the system in Ramallah looks very calm and not at all hysterical," Ayalon noted, saying Abbas did not seem afraid of the electorate, "The extent of the security around Abbas is less than the security present in Israel’s government offices."