Monday, September 10, 2007

But of course this is what we should do...and more!

'Deny Hamas prisoners visits until Red Cross sees Schalit' Family members of Hamas men held in Israeli prisons should be denied visitation rights until the Red Cross is allowed to visit kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit, held by Hamas in Gaza since he was kidnapped in June 2006, Army Radio reported Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman as saying Monday evening.
Lieberman's comments came hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that he would push for a prisoner release ahead of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. In his response to the meeting, the strategic affairs minister insisted that no prisoner release should be considered.

Earlier on Monday, Olmert and Abbas met in Jerusalem, accompanied for the first time by PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.

Israeli officials believed Fayad's presence was significant because it showed that the meetings were beginning to concentrate on the governing aspect of a Palestinian state, rather than just the idea of having one.
The three agreed to set up working groups to discuss general issues pertaining to Palestinian state negotiations, as talks took a step toward determining how such a state would be run.

Regarding a Palestinian prisoner release as a goodwill gesture ahead of Ramadan, Olmert said he understood the importance of the issue and hoped to bring it up at the upcoming cabinet meeting.

Ramadan begins on Thursday.

The issue was supposed to be raised at last Sunday's cabinet meeting, but a prisoner release was deemed politically implausible due to the tense security situation in both the North and South, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

During the talks, the leaders decided that ministers from each side would meet to discuss governing issues for a Palestinian state.

In the working groups, the Israeli team will be made up of representatives from the Defense Ministry, the Prime Minister's Office and the Justice Ministry.
The issue of lifting West Bank roadblocks to allow Palestinians greater accessibility came up yet again in the latest meeting, and Olmert said again that Israel was waiting for a plan from the Defense Ministry and would present it to Abbas when it was ready.

The Post has learned that disagreement exists between the Prime Minister's Office and the Defense Ministry on the roadblock issue, with the Defense Ministry less enthused by the prospect of lifting them.

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