Ben-Eliezer: Violence may spread to W. Bank

In US, Ben Eliezer warns about ramifications of escalation; reiterates call to free Barghouti.

ben eliezer 224.88 (photo credit:)
ben eliezer 224.88
(photo credit: )
National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer warned that violence could spread to the West Bank during a visit here Tuesday in the midst of Palestinian-Israeli clashes. "We're going to start getting rockets in Ramle," he told members of the Israeli press. "This is a process that you can foresee already." At the same time, he advocated measures "to ease" the day-to-day situation of Palestinians in the West Bank, including scaling back some roadblocks, providing more welfare and services and job opportunities. During talk of negotiations with Hamas for a cease-fire, Ben-Eliezer said he was open to speaking to Israel's enemies, but he put some conditions on dialogue. "I am ready to sit with anyone who is ready to recognize Israel and stop terror," he said. He staked out a similar position when asked about US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's advocacy for talking to Iran. "I'm not against meeting with anyone, but I'm against illusions." Ben-Eliezer repeated his controversial statements that jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti should be released, though he also praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayad as "good men." Ben-Eliezer spent time in Washington meeting with members of Congress and other American officials to discuss energy projects and cooperation. He said Tuesday that he hoped to sign a memorandum of understanding on the agreement for Israel to receive fuel supplies via a Turkish-Georgian-Azerbaijani pipeline in the coming weeks. With that, he estimated it would take five years for the deal to be operational.