Mohammed Mar’i
Arab News
June 2, 2008 - 4:10pm§ion=0&article=110485&d=2&m=6&y=2008

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday delayed a key Cabinet decision on an Egyptian-mediated truce with the Hamas in and around the Gaza Strip.

“This is an issue that has to go through the security Cabinet,” Olmert was quoted as saying by a senior official. “This is a serious and weighty issue with far-reaching consequences.” The premier delayed the planned yesterday departure to Cairo of senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad, who represents Israel in the indirect talks.

“At this stage we will not send any envoy to Egypt before holding a security Cabinet consultation,” Olmert told his Kadima party ministers before the weekly government meeting.

The premier, who faces a graft investigation that threatens his political future, leaves today on a three-day visit to the United States and will not convene the powerful security Cabinet before next week, his office said.

“Our commitment is clear that the situation in the south cannot continue and the security Cabinet is the only authorized body to make decisions on the issue,” Olmert was quoted as saying.

Egypt has been acting as mediator because Israel refuses to negotiate directly with the Hamas movement.

In exchange for stopping rocket attacks, Hamas has said it wants Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza and allow the reopening of border crossings, especially Rafah on the frontier with Egypt.

In Ramallah, a senior Hamas official said yesterday his group was ready for talks with Fatah but without any preconditions.

Yahya Mousa, the deputy head of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, said Hamas was ready for immediate talks with Fatah on any peace initiative, including the Makkah agreement.

Mousa’s remarks came in response to a reconciliation initiative by Monib Al-Masri, head of Palestine forum and a prominent businessman, that aims to end rivalry between the two groups.

He said that any reconciliation initiative “should build on what was achieved during previous deals between Hamas and Fatah.” The Hamas official warned that any initiative that “does not recognize the results of the elections and political changes, will not succeed.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis, and international activists gathered outside the occupied West Bank village of Nilin yesterday to protest against the extension of Israel’s separation wall.

At least three people were wounded by rubber bullets and another eight were treated for tear gas inhalation when Israeli troops dispersed the protest, the organizers said.

The villagers say they mobilized last month when the Israeli Army told them it would confiscate some 2,500 dunams (620 acres) of land for the separation wall, which Israel insists is necessary to prevent attacks from the territory.

Palestinians refer to the structure as an “Apartheid wall” and see it as part of a larger land grab aimed at slicing up the West Bank and preventing the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.

“We plan to hold many demonstrations against this,” Salah Khawaja, one of the organizers of the protest told AFP, adding that villagers were also observing a general strike.


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