Negotiations with Hamas should be considered if the group makes a genuine offer to end terror activity, stop smugglings and discuss the release of abducted soldier Gilad Schalit, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel Radio on Friday. Ben-Eliezer added that in his experience, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would not reject any offer outright. Meanwhile, security sources quoted by Army Radio said Israel would not be able to ignore Hamas's offer of a ceasefire if it proved able to halt Kassam attacks. The sources added that no negotiations were taking place at the moment. + Israel is examining a Hamas truce proposal delivered by Egypt, defense officials said, but violence persisted Friday as a Hamas militant was killed in what the group said was a clash with Israeli troops near the Israel-Gaza border. Israeli calls for cease-fire talks with the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip grew Friday as an Israeli Cabinet minister said he supported such negotiations under certain conditions. + Two Israel Defense Forces reservists were lightly wounded Friday when Palestinian militants detonated an explosive device near the security fence at the Kissufim Crossing on the border with the Gaza Strip. Also Friday, a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza struck south of the Negev city of Ashkelon. No injuries or damages were reported in the incident. .. Security sources: IDF pressure led to Hamas truce calls: Security sources said analyses by the IDF and Shin Bet security service concluded that Israel's military pressure on the Gaza militants led to the recent announcement by former Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh on the need for a cease-fire. The Israeli side, including the office of Prime Minister Olmert, has deep suspicions about the Hamas offer for a cease-fire, and there is no support for any form of negotiations. However, if Haniyeh manages to rein in the militants and offers a tahadiyeh (calm) in a few months, Israel may respond positively. The military pressure on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip is only aggravating an already difficult economic situation, made harder by the sanctions limiting the flow of goods and fuel to Gaza. There are also restrictions on Gazans from leaving the area through the Rafah crossing on the border with the Sinai Peninsula. + Avi Issacharoff und Amos Harel, "Analysis: Is a truce between Hamas and Israel possible?" + A military incursion into Gaza to remove Hamas is needed if there is to be any real diplomatic process with the Palestinians, a senior Israeli diplomatic official said Thursday. According to the official, speaking prior to the imminent release of the Foreign Ministry's strategic assessment for 2008, as long as Hamas is in control of Gaza, there will be negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, but no real "diplomatic process." .. The official said a major IDF incursion into Gaza would be "extremely costly," and that the trauma from last year's war in Lebanon was to a large extent preventing this type of operation from being carried out in the Strip now. The official said both Abbas and Egypt would welcome IDF action, but for obvious reasons would have to condemn it publicly.
Seventy MKs support legislation that would offer compensation to settlers willing to evacuate homes situated east of the separation fence before a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, Vice Premier Haim Ramon told Haaretz Thursday. Ramon has been quietly probing the likelihood of MKs supporting such legislation, and is also assessing the cost of this offer to between 30,000 to 40,000 settlers. His discreet efforts are being carried out with the full knowledge and support of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Sa'adia Marciano gestorben. Die Beerdigung findet heute um 14:00 MESZ statt.
Michael Hirsh: "What Will Israel Do? - A unilateral military strike against Iran is much more likely following the latest intel report about Tehran's nuke program": Ehud Olmert, like George W. Bush, is trying hard to make it seem that nothing has changed, and that the international diplomatic coalition against Iran is still intact. "The state of Israel is not the main flag-bearer against the quirks of the regime in Tehran," the Israeli prime minister declared testily last week, after officials in his own government seemed to suggest that Israel had been left on its own by Washington. Olmert said that the recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran--which stunned leaders around the world by concluding, after years of bellicose rhetoric from Bush officials about Iran's nuclear ambitions, that Tehran had halted its weapons program in 2003--has "generated an exaggerated debate" in Israel. "Some of us even interpreted the report as an American retreat from its support of Israel," Olmert said. "This is groundless … I trust and am confident that the United States will continue to lead the international campaign to stop the development of a nuclear Iran."
Amid international skepticism and ongoing regional tensions, 87 countries and international organizations have pledged $7.4 billion in aid to help build a Palestinian state. Monday's Paris meeting of the donors comes on the heels of last month's Annapolis talks, a White House effort to revitalize Israeli-Palestinian negotiations before the Bush administration leaves office. The money, which is expected to pass through various channels, including international aid organizations and the Palestinian government—that is, the government of Mahmoud Abbas and not the now-defunct Hamas-led government in Gaza—was donated in response to this week's World Bank report, which noted that "even under the most optimistic scenarios significant aid will continue to be required" to ensure the economic stability of the West Bank and Gaza. Afif Safieh, a Palestinian diplomat who heads the Palestine Liberation Organization Mission in Washington, spoke to Vivian Salama about the likely impact of the aid package and the latest political developments in the Palestinian territories.
An attempt to exchange messages between Israel and Syria in recent months has failed. European diplomatic sources said that the reason for the impasse was the inability to reach an agreed-upon agenda for talks between the two countries. But in off-the-record conversations, several sources close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert say that "the Syrian track still has higher chances of success when compared to the Palestinian track." In the past few months, Israel approached Syrian President Bashar Assad via a number of friendly states, in an effort to evaluate the possibility of renewing direct contact. The main interlocutor in these exchanges has been Turkey, but Israel also made use of the good services of Germany, which still holds an open line of communications with Damascus.
An outgoing senior Foreign Ministry official has urged Israel to press for strengthened American defense guarantees, and to sign a military pact with Washington before the end of the Bush administration. Yoram Ben-Zeev, the ministry's former deputy director-general for North America, said in a report written two months ago and presented to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that the aim of the joint pact would be to bolster Israel's deterrence in the face of any threat from Iran. Ben-Zeev has recently been appointed Israel's ambassador to Berlin.