Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Israelis, Palestinians Holding Talks

JERUSALEM — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet Sunday, an aide to the Israeli leader said, keeping their promise to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to hold regular talks.
The venue was to be finalized later Wednesday, Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisin said. Saeb Erekat, an Abbas confidant, said the Palestinians invited Olmert to meet in the West Bank town of Jericho, but hadn't heard back.
The two men last met March 11 but pledged during a subsequent Rice visit to hold talks every two weeks.
The Palestinians want to head straight to the core issues dividing the two sides, such as the borders of a future Palestinian state, the status of disputed Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees' demands to return to land they fled or were driven from when Israel was established in 1948.
Olmert's aides have said he would only talk to Abbas about security and humanitarian issues, and a "general political horizon." Divisive issues could be addressed once Palestinians halt their rocket fire into Israel from Gaza and release an Israeli soldier captured in June, they said.
Hopes of progress toward releasing Cpl. Gilad Shalit diminished Tuesday when Olmert's office balked at a list of Palestinian prisoners the soldier's captors want freed in exchange.
Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti has said the list included Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five consecutive life terms in the murder of four Israelis and a Greek monk, and Ahmed Saadat, leader of small radical faction suspected in the 2001 assassination of an Israeli Cabinet minister.
In the past, Israel has hesitated to release Palestinians involved in killings, but has made exceptions. Public pressure has been building to make a deal for Shalit and two other soldiers captured three weeks later by Lebanese guerrillas in a cross-border raid that set off an inconclusive 34-day war last summer.
After Abbas meets Olmert, he and Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr plan to leave on a 10-day trip to Europe on a campaign to lift aid sanctions that have crippled their government.
Abbas aides said they hope to persuade their hosts to ease the blockade imposed after Islamic Hamas militants swept to power in January 2006 elections, now that a new unity government has taken office with members of the more pragmatic Fatah party.
Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad met European Union officials in Brussels on Wednesday and later told reporters that the new Palestinian government would need $1.33 billion in international aid this year.
"This is assistance we need to get back on our feet," Fayyad said after meeting with EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
On Tuesday, the State Department said Congress had approved $59 million in U.S. aid to Palestinian security forces and the money was ready to be disbursed.
The package, reduced from $86 million over concerns that some money might go to radical groups, soon will be on its way to security forces controlled by Abbas, spokesman Sean McCormack said.
Also Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Jewish settlers who moved into a disputed house in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron would be given notice to evacuate but would not be evicted until the legal appeals process is completed, which other officials said could take weeks.
The Israelis moved into the house in an Arab neighborhood on March 19, saying they bought it from Palestinians. Peretz said the settlers had not requested Israeli government authorization to live there and would be ordered to leave.
"In my opinion there is no reason why the presence in the house should continue, therefore I intend to exercise my authority and have them removed," Peretz told Israel Radio.
He did not give a time frame.
The Yesha settlers' council said it would fight Peretz's decision "with all its might."
Hebron is believed by Jews and Muslims to be the burial site of biblical patriarchs and is a frequent flashpoint. Israel controls the center, where about 500 settlers live in heavily guarded enclaves among about 160,000 Palestinians. The Palestinians control the rest of the city.
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The Chomsky Hoax

The Chomsky Hoax
Exposing the Dishonesty of Noam Chomsky