Monday, November 27, 2006

Israel offers concessions yet again in return for peace

Again, we have a message that will be forgotten, so I want to make it clear here.

Israel's Prime Minister is saying, like other PM's before him back to Barak, that everything needed to create a Palestinian state will be done if the Palestinians truly choose peace.

But here's my prediction: They'll choose terror, Israel will have to do something to protect our citizens, then the world will deny that Israel offerred peace.

So here's the article, in CNN of all places.

Israel offers peace concessions to Palestinians

POSTED: 8:05 a.m. EST, November 27, 2006

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered wide-ranging concessions if the Palestinians turn away from violence, saying Monday that they would be able to achieve an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza through real peace talks with Israel.
In what was billed in advance as a major policy speech, Olmert tried to entice the Palestinians to return to long-stalled peace talks with promises of an immediate improvement in their lives: promising to reduce checkpoints, release frozen funds and free prisoners in exchange for a serious Palestinian push for peace.
"I hold out my hand in peace to our Palestinian neighbors in the hope that it won't be returned empty," Olmert said.
Directly addressing the Palestinians in some of his most conciliatory remarks since winning election in March, Olmert described Israel as willing to make far-reaching concessions if the Palestinians choose peace.
"We, the state of Israel, will agree to the evacuation of many territories and the settlements that we built there. This is extremely difficult for us, like the splitting of the Red Sea. We will do it for real peace," he said.
He said that if the Palestinians establish a new government committed to carrying out the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan and securing the release of a captured Israeli soldier, then he would call for an immediate meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "to have a real, open, honest, serious dialogue between us."
Olmert said that Israel planned to release "many Palestinian prisoners," including those serving long sentences, as a trust-building measure after Palestinian militants freed the captured soldier alive and healthy.
Israel also would ease the checkpoints across the West Bank, improve border terminals in Gaza, release the frozen money to the Palestinians and help develop a plan to rehabilitate their crippled economy, he said.
In exchange, Olmert said Palestinians would have to renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to live in peace and security and give up their demands to allow refugees from the 1948 war to return to their homes in what is now Israel.
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 a fragile new 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.
Olmert's offer came a day after the two sides implemented the cease-fire in Gaza, ending five months of widespread violence there and raising hopes that the agreement would lead to new peace efforts. It also raised the diplomatic stakes ahead of a visit to the region by President Bush. (Watch smoke trails from rocket attacks that threatened the cease-fire )
Relations between Israel and the Palestinians, already low after more than five years of fighting, further plummeted in January when the militant Hamas group won Palestinian parliamentary elections.
Israel cut off ties with the Hamas-led Cabinet and froze the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Palestinian government in an effort to pressure Hamas to recognize Israel and renounce violence.
Tensions exploded in June when Hamas-linked militants captured Cpl. Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid, sparking a wide Israeli offensive in Gaza that killed more than 300 Palestinians, scores of them civilians. The violence also killed five Israelis.
Despite the offensive, Palestinian militants had insisted they would not release Shalit unless Israel freed hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Israel publicly rejected the demand, leaving the two sides in a violent stalemate.
But in recent days, there have been signs of progress, particularly Olmert and Abbas agreeing to the cease-fire in Gaza that took effect Sunday morning, stirring hopes that further agreements could follow.
"The uncompromising extremism of your terror organizations ... haven't brought you closer to achieving the goal that I'm convinced many of you share -- to establish a Palestinian state," Olmert said in his speech at a ceremony commemorating the death of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion.
"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."
Olmert said that Palestinians stood at a "historic crossroads" and could choose to continue on the path of violence or peace.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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