Israel Egypt border 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday reiterated his willingness to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners after captured IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit was freed, and blamed Hamas for the delay in implementing a prisoner exchange deal.
"I give Palestinians my word of honor," Olmert told the east Jerusalem-based Al-Quds newspaper. "You will see how far I will go to allow your sons to return to their houses."
PM: Barghouti release is not an option
Calling on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to "take responsibility and organize the Palestinians," Olmert said that Abbas must act of his own accord. "The time has come when no one can give any more guidance to Abbas, neither Damascus nor anyone else," Olmert asserted.
Olmert went on to say that he would be prepared to speak to Hamas if the group were to accept the preconditions set out by the international community - recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and accepting existing peace deals.
"I don't think it is necessary to investigate the records of the (Hamas) ministers," Olmert said, pointing out that Israel negotiated with the Palestinian Liberation Organization even though it was long considered a terrorist group.
Olmert also called on Egypt to improve the performance of its troops patrolling the Philadelphi corridor.
The prime minister said that he was "interested in the presence of Egyptian forces" along the Gaza-Egypt border route, but believed that the forces could operate with greater efficiency, Israel Radio reported.
AP contributed to this report