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Friday, December 1, 2006

[Israeli] Security officials said set to advise against expanded truce

Last update - 09:21 01/12/2006

Security officials said set to advise against expanded truce

By Yoav Stern, Akiva Eldar and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents,
Haaretz Service and The Associated Press

Security officials are expected to advise the cabinet Sunday not to expand the
Gaza Strip cease-fire to the West Bank, Israel Radio reported Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who met with Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert on Thursday, expressed her appreciation for the restraint Israel has
exercised in recent days in the face of continued rocket fire from the Gaza
Strip and said the cease-fire in Gaza needs to be bolstered with further

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev told reporters Thursday that Olmert
wants to extend the cease-fire to the West Bank once it has proven effective
in the Gaza Strip. As of Friday morning, Palestinians have fired 14 Qassam
rockets on Israel since the cease-fire went into effect Sunday, according to
the Israel Defense Forces.

The security officials told Israel Radio that IDF operations in the West Bank
are meant to stop bombings that, unless they are stopped in time, tend to be
far more deadly than the rocket fire coming from Gaza.

Rice said after her meeting earlier in the day with Palestinian Authority
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that Israel and the Palestinians should step up efforts
to revive peace talks and move toward a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian

"Hopefully we can take this moment to accelerate our efforts and intensify our
efforts toward the two-state solution that we all desire," Rice said at a news
conference with Abbas.

Rice commended Olmert for his address earlier this week at a memorial event
for Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, at his burial site in Sde

"The speech will contribute to calm and will further the peace process in the
region," sources in the Prime Minister's Office quoted the visiting American
official as saying.

Olmert said in the Sde Boker speech that Israel would accept a territorially
contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank in exchange for Palestinians
relinquishing their demand for a return of Palestinian refugees to Israel.

During his meeting with Rice, Olmert updated her on the talks held a day
earlier with visiting Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman regarding
efforts to gain the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad

Rice informed Olmert of the content of her talks earlier in the day with
Abbas. Following her meeting with Olmert, Rice met with Foreign Minister Tzipi

Meanwhile, Abbas announced at the press conference that the talks with Hamas
on the establishment of a government of national unity have reached a "dead

The PA chairman recently proposed a compromise formula for uniting the various
Palestinian factions, which also aims to bypass the preconditions of the
international community for lifting sanctions against the Palestinian
Authority. However, his proposal has stalled over disagreements on which
ministerial portfolios would go to each faction.

Abbas said he wants to establish a government that will bring an end to the
siege on the Palestinian people, adding that "as far as I'm concerned, I don't
care who sits in it."

According to the Abbas formula, whose details have been made available to
Israel and the Quartet (the United States, European Union, United Nations and
Russia), Abbas will present the new government to the Palestinian parliament,
as well as basic guidelines to which the ministers will commit. Among these
basic guidelines will be recognition of previous agreements signed between
Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, including ones for disarming
all Palestinian factions.

In his speech at the Palestinian parliament, Abbas will reiterate the
government's commitment to the Oslo Accords, and the Palestinian leaders'
intention to continue their negotiations with Israel because "that is their
strategic, political and realistic choice."

Like Rice, Abbas also had good things to say about the speech Olmert made at
Sde Boker.

"In the meeting with the secretary of state we discussed the cease-fire, and
we hope that we can return to the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings [which
included the release of prisoners and an IDF pullout from West Bank cities],"
Abbas said, "in order to bring about the resumption of the diplomatic process
and the implementation of the road map."

During the meeting Abbas recommended that any future negotiations between
Israel and the Palestinians be held along two tracks - one dealing with
day-to-day problems and the other with political issues.

Standing alongside Abbas, Rice addressed aspirations for a Palestinian state.

"The United States has made clear that we expect it to be a viable and
contiguous state when it is created," she said. "Secondly, that no actions
that are being taken now should prejudge the outcome of a final status
agreement. That means very clearly that if actions are being taken now, they
will not be considered by the United States to prejudge the outcome of final

However, one Palestinian source who attended the Rice-Abbas meeting sought to
underplay the significance of the discussion.

"Rice asked to receive updates and she got them," he said. "It is difficult to
say that we reached a specific point [in the meeting]. Abu Mazen [Abbas]
explained to her that at this moment there is no progress in the matter of the
unity government and if the Hamas stance remains unchanged, it is possible
that in two or three months we will have to go to early elections."

The same source said Hamas was very pleased with Palestinian Prime Minister
Ismail Haniyeh's reception in Egypt, his first stop in his first trip abroad
since Hamas won the national elections in the Palestinian Authority earlier
this year.

"They are sure that the international boycott on the Palestinian Authority is
about to be lifted," said the source. "In addition, they are hoping to
complete a deal for the release of soldier Gilad Shalit and thus score points
in their favor among the Palestinians."

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