Sunday, March 18, 2007

Olmert rules out peace talks with Palestinians

Until they recognize Israel and renounce violence. This makes sense, don't you think? If words mean anything, then "peace" between Israel and Palestine would mean that Palestine wouldn't seek to destroy Israel. Kind of obvious, I would think.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday ruled out peace talks with the Palestinians, saying contacts will be limited to humanitarian issues until the new coalition government explicitly renounces violence and recognizes Israel's right to exist.

Olmert made the comments a day after the rival Hamas and Fatah movements installed their new unity government in hopes of persuading the international community to end its isolation of the Palestinian Authority and lift a year of bruising economic sanctions.

Israeli officials are concerned the tough international stance against the Palestinians could crumble in the face of the new Palestinian government. Norway immediately recognized the new coalition on Saturday and announced it would lift sanctions. Britain and the U.N. also signaled flexibility, while the U.S. reacted coolly.

While the coalition's platform is more moderate than that of the previous Hamas-led government, Olmert said it fell short of international demands to renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept past peace deals. He also noted its affirmation of the right to "resistance."


The new Palestinian foreign minister, Ziad Abu Amr, urged Israel to cooperate with the new government, saying there was a new opportunity to establish cooperative ties. Speaking to Israel Radio, he dismissed the calls for formal recognition of Israel as "semantics."

The new Palestinian administration replaced a year-old government led by Hamas, the violently anti-Israel Islamic militant group that has killed dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings.