Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is willing to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations next month, according to unnamed Palestinian officials quoted in The Jerusalem Post. Although Abbas refuses to agree to even preliminary negotiating sessions with the current Israeli government until it ends all construction in settlements in the West Bank, the willingness to speak informally is still a big step for the Fatah leader to take, and it makes perfect sense given other statements and gestures emanating from Bethlehem. Yesterday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced plans to establish a “de facto” Palestinian state by 2011, founded on dramatically improved infrastructure, security, and economic development. This would proceed apace with Netanyahu’s so far consistent efforts to scale back the occupational presence in the West Bank by “radically reducing” the number of IDF soldiers stationed there, dismantling outposts, checkpoints and roadblocks, and weakening trade restrictions in the West Bank. Even an informal conference between the two leaders may prove fruitful: sort of a backstage negotiation over material progress, if not peace.