Mofaz: IDF will freeze operations against wanted men
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said at yesterday's cabinet meeting that he had agreed in talks with Palestinian Authority security advisor Mohammed Dahlan to suspend Israel Defense Forces action against 300 wanted Palestinians.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said at yesterday's cabinet meeting that he had agreed in talks with Palestinian Authority security advisor Mohammed Dahlan to suspend Israel Defense Forces action against 300 wanted Palestinians. Mofaz also said that the defense establishment expects terrorist organizations to attempt attacks prior to the Sharm summit in an effort to disrupt the diplomatic process. He said, "It is clear to us that Hezbollah will continue to try to carry out attacks inside Israel."
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday that the release of late tourism minister Rechavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi's murderers - senior Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine members Ahmed Saadat and Gahed Abu Ghulme, who are jailed in Jericho - isn't even on the agenda. He said, "There is no basis to the report that Gandhi's killers will be released. The Palestinians were given a clear answer on that count two weeks ago."
Mofaz confirmed this message, as did Minister Without Portfolio Haim Ramon, who is a member of the ministerial committee for prisoner release.
On the Sharm summit, Mofaz said, "I don't expect huge progress in one day, but that the meeting will be a milestone for the beginning of a new era." He said that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas must be given a controlled opportunity. "In any case, everything will be approved by both sides, without a mad rush and in the appropriate doses."
Mofaz said that, "In order to take advantage of the positive momentum of recent days, Palestinian anti-terrorism measures must expand and advance with determination, consistency and efficiency. The Palestinian Authority must take more active measures against terrorist groups, and implement preventative anti-terror operations."
Mofaz said that the cabinet decision to release 900 Palestinian prisoners specifies that they "not have blood on their hands." Five hundred prisoners will be released after tomorrow's summit at Sharm el-Sheikh, and the remaining 400 will be released later. He said that an agreement had been reached to establish a joint Israel-PA ministerial committee to discuss prisoner releases and make recommendations to leaders on both sides.
Mofaz said that he had agreed to the release of two of the six prisoners Dahlan had requested. One is Marwan Baghouti's son Kassam, aged 19, who is charged with involvement in a series of shooting attacks, and the other is Abed al-Azzim.
Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi and Health Minister Dan Naveh opposed any release of prisoners "with blood on their hands" in the cabinet meeting yesterday. Netanyahu said that they shouldn't be released even if they are elderly and are charged with crimes committed long ago. "Prisoner release cannot be automatic, and must be contingent on the Palestinians fulfilling promises like dismantling terrorist infrastructure and preventing future attacks," Netanyahu said.
Hanegbi said, that "I opposed the release of murderers and I don't care if they are old. Anyone who has planned a murder should not be released, even if he is elderly."
The cabinet also approved a new Israeli ministerial committee on prisoner release yesterday, separate from the joint Israel-PA committee. The new committee will be headed by Sharon and will include Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Mofaz, Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Ramon. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz will attend its meetings.
Shalom said yesterday that there has been a substantial change in the content of Palestinian television broadcasts in the past few days. "This is evident in the end of inciting broadcasts, part and parcel of Palestinian programming in Yasser Arafat's day. Also, the cult of personality broadcasts regarding the PA chairman that had been routine have stopped." Shalom said, "The change must be deeper and include public awareness, starting with the education system, universities and so on, where the change in content is not yet evident."