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"If there are jobs for two-and-a-half million Palestinians, we'll see a different West Bank," said President-elect Shimon Peres in his first public speech since his election on Sunday, as he called for Israel to economically assist the Palestinians.
He also noted that Jordan would be an important partner in the economic development of the region.
Speaking to the opening of the Jewish Agency Assembly on Sunday morning, Peres also spoke of Hamas's demands for recognition.
"If Hamas takes care of their children, we'll help them. If they shoot at our children, we'll stop them in every possible way," he announced to the audience of representatives from around the Jewish world. "They must understand that the choice is in their hands - you can't shoot and expect to be respected."
Peres further said that if Syria seriously embarked on a peace process, they would find Israel a willing partner.
The Jewish Agency Assembly, convening this week before the Agency's Board of Governors meeting at the end of the week, is an annual get-together of the leaders of Jewish communities, donor and Jewish organizations from around the world. Israel's leaders, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog and others will speak to the group.
Among the topics to be discussed will be the development of a young generation of leaders, the Iran threat and issues of intra-Jewish relations, including non-Orthodox conversions in Israel.
The assembly is the primary forum of the Jewish Agency, with 518 members, 120 of whom are members of the Board of Governors, who make policy decisions, and 24 of whom are members of the Executive. Half of these are members of the World Zionist Organization, 30% from American Jewish communities through the UJC, and the remaining 20% come from other communities worldwide through Keren Hayesod.
The assembly makes no decisions, and actual policy will be decided when the Board of Governors meeting will begin on Tuesday afternoon, one hour after the close of the Assembly.