Last week the chairman of the Palestinian negotiation team with Israel, Ahmed Qureia Abu Ala voiced unequivocal support for the candidacy of his negotiation partner, Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, for chairman of Kadima.

His revelation came at an intimate meeting in his home on Monday in Jerusalem, with a number of Arab journalists from Israel in which Mr. Abu Ala presented to them a picture of the negotiations between the parties.

The journalists wanted to hear from the senior Palestinian official his opinion about the four candidates for Kadima chairman, and which one he personally preferred.

Mr. Abu Ala agreed to share his views with those present but stipulated, “this must not appear in the Israeli media, so as not to harm Palestinian interests,” as he put it.

One of the participants at the meeting said that Mr. Abu Ala said that he preferred that Tzipi Livni win the primary for a number of reasons, which he detailed. The first is that Ms. Livni is very involved in the negotiations and, if she wins, the negotiations would not affect their progress. He added that, despite the difficult disagreements between them, Ms. Livni’s positions on the peace process were relatively close to the Palestinian positions.

Another reason Mr. Abu Ala mentioned was connected to his aversion for the other candidates, particularly the ‘two security experts,’ Mr. Shaul Mofaz and Mr. Avi Dichter, as his past experience, and that of the Palestinians, with them was not good.

At the meeting, Mr. Abu Ala said he was pessimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement between the sides in the coming months. He said that the political situation in Israel, in the U.S. and the PA was not conducive to reaching an agreement, because the three leaders in power today – President Bush, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen) – were about to end their terms.

PA sources are pleased with the “new ideas” that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented during her last visit to region last week.

A senior Palestinian official told the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat that Ms. Rice presented “a position closer to the Palestinian demands in relation to stopping settlement activity, to establishing an independent Palestinian state in the June 4, 1967 lines that includes Jerusalem, and a territorial swap of identical quality on a one to one basis between the sides.”

It should be noted that at Ms. Rice’s meeting with Mr. Abbas in Ramallah two weeks ago, Ms. Rice supported Mr. Abbas on most of the core issues. In an interview that Mr. Abbas gave to the Al-Arabiya network last week, he said that Ms. Rice had proposed the establishment of a secure land crossing (instead of a tunnel or bridge), to divide Jerusalem on the basis of the 1967 lines instead of on a demographic basis, and giving the Palestinians control of the water sources.