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Monday, November 27, 2006

Those serving 'lengthy terms' will go free too

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Subject: PM: Those serving 'lengthy terms' will go free too

Last update - 13:31 27/11/2006

PM: Those serving 'lengthy terms' will go free too

Olmert: Shalit release will lead to prisoner release

By Avi Issacharoff, Aluf Benn, Jack Khoury and Amos Harel, Haaretz
Correspondents and Agencies

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that the release of Israel Defense
Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, held since June by Gaza militants, would lead to
the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

"With Gilad Shalit's release and his return safe and sound to his family, the
Israeli government will be willing to release many Palestinian prisoners, even
those who have been sentenced to lengthy terms," Olmert said.

The prime minister, speaking at the grave of Israel's first premier, David
Ben-Gurion, in Sde Boker, said that he was extending his hand in peace to the
Palestinians, and that he hoped it would not remain unanswered.

"You, the Palestinian nation in the east and west... stand at the crossroads
of a historic declaration," he said.

He called on the Palestinians to renounce violence and give up the insistence
on the refugees' right of return to territory within Israel's borders, which
has long been a major sticking point in peace negotiations.

If the Palestinians did decide to choose peace talks, Olmert promised, Israel
would quit large swathes of the West Bank, ease checkpoints and release frozen
funds to Palestinians.

"We will agree to leave large territories and dismantle settlements that we
established," he said. "We will be willing to do this in exchange for real

"We cannot change the past and we will not be able to bring back the victims
on both sides of the borders," he said. "All that we have in our hands to do
today is to stop additional tragedies.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians were ready to
negotiate a final peace deal.

"I believe Mr. Olmert knows he has a partner, and that is President Abbas. He
knows that to achieve peace and security for all, we need to shoot for the end
game," Erekat said.

As a first step, Erekat said, the two sides need to sustain the fragile
cease-fire along the Israel-Gaza border and also extend it to the West Bank.

"That will open the key to a political horizon," he said.

Report: Olmert, Abbas to meet Rice
Israel Radio on Monday quoted Voice of Palestine Radio as saying that Olmert,
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and U.S Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice would soon meet in a three-way summit.

According to Israel Radio, Voice of Palestine also said that Britain had
proposed to Israel and the PA that British observers be deployed on the
Israel-Gaza Strip border to safeguard the truce that went into effect on

Rice is to arrive Wednesday with U.S. President George W. Bush in Jordan to
take part in a conference on democracy and development called by King
Abdullah, and to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The original
plan called for a trip to the region to focus on the Iraqi issue, but now it
appears that Rice will be devoting time to Israel and the Palestinians as

Jordan-based units of the Palestinian Liberation Army, the armed wing of the
Palestine Liberation Organization, may be sent to the Strip to help enforce
the cease-fire, Voice of Palestine was further quoted as saying.

Government sources in Jerusalem said Sunday they believed Rice would visit
Israel and the Palestinian Authority this week as an expression of U.S.
support for the Gaza cease-fire.

Olmert said Sunday during a trip to the Negev, "The state of Israel is so
strong that it can allow itself to hold back, to give a real chance to the
cease-fire. After all, a cease-fire is not the supreme goal. It is only a
stage in the process, which we hope will create the dynamic that will lead to
negotiations and dialogue, and perhaps will finally bring about an agreement
between us and the Palestinians."

An intermediary between Hamas and Fatah, Ziad Abu-Amar, told Haaretz the
Palestinian factions would soon begin to discuss expanding the short-term
cease-fire, or tahadiyeh, to the West Bank.

Abu Amar also said Abbas had asked the factions to "calm down" their
activities in the West Bank, so as to allow a cease-fire agreement to be
extended to that area as well. A spokesman for the Palestinian government,
Razi Hamed, confirmed to Haaretz that the organizations do intend to examine
this option.

PM: Cease-fire is not the supreme aim
Olmert said Sunday during a visit in the Negev that "the State of Israel is so
strong that it can allow itself some restraint in order to give a chance to a

"All of these things ultimately could lead to one thing - the opening of
serious, real, open and direct negotiations between us," Olmert said. "So that
we can move forward towards a comprehensive agreement between us and the

Olmert also said that Israel would display "patience and restraint" in the
face of Palestinian violations of a cease-fire that went into effect earlier
in the day.

"Even though there are still violations of the cease-fire by the Palestinian
side, I have instructed our defense officials not to respond, to show
restraint, and to give this cease-fire a chance to take full effect," he said
during a ceremony at a high school in the Bedouin town of Rahat, adding "the
government of Israel will not miss this opportunity for calm."

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