Abbas to offer expanded cease-fire in talks with Olmert, despite Jihad opposition
Abbas to make offer during meeting with PM on Sunday; Islamic Jihad opposes extending Gaza cease-fire with Israel to West Bank.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas plans to offer Israel an expanded cease-fire in talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday, despite the Islamic Jihad's opposition.
Hamas and Fatah both support Abbas' bid to extend the cease-fire from Gaza to the West Bank, in exchange for Israeli noninterference with the Palestinian unity government that is due to be formed next week - including not urging Western countries to boycott it.
Abbas and PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met on Tuesday with representatives of various Palestinian factions and presented the idea to them, and on Wednesday, Abbas' chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, met with representatives of the five largest factions in Gaza.
Islamic Jihad rejected the proposal, however, and although Hamas accepted, it drew fire from some of its senior members.
Senior Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri said Friday that Israel must first halt all military operations and stop excavations near the Temple Mount.
"There can be no talk about calm as long as the digging and harm to Al-Aqsa continued and as long as the Zionist aggression continued," Masri said.
According to Palestinian sources, Islamic Jihad did not completely rule out the idea, but a Jihad representative told Reuters that the organization cannot consider it while "Zionist aggression" against the Palestinians, and particularly Jihad operatives, continues in the West Bank.
Abbas also plans to ask Olmert for various gestures, including a prisoner release, as well as for clarifications on Israel's policy toward the unity government.
Olmert, however, has announced that Israel will boycott any Fatah ministers who will participate in the unity government, unless such a government adheres to the three prerequisites put forth by the international Quartet, namely recognition of Israel, relinquishing violence and accepting previous accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Israel will also not offer any additional gestures to the Palestinians during the Olmert-Abbas meeting. There are concerns that some of the funds Israel transferred to the care of Abbas, for advancing security-related reforms, were used instead to pay for salaries of Palestinian security forces.
"There is a question: Has the money gone to where it needs to go?" said Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin on Friday.
Haniyeh criticized Israel's position on the tax transfers, saying the money belongs to the Palestinians.
"This is Israeli piracy," he told reporters after Friday prayers.
Meanwhile on Friday, Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed a Palestinian who approached the Gaza security fence, and a Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit an open area in the western Negev.
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