MKs critical after Rice's comments

Kidnapped soldiers' families urge her to make troops' safe return a priority.

beilin 224.88  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
beilin 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The families of kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Cpl. Gilad Schalit called on US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday to work as decisively to bring back their loved ones as she has to promote the peace process, Israel Radio reported. At a meeting between the families and the US diplomat, Rice told them that their struggle was the struggle of the entire free world against terror organizations. The families said afterwards that atmosphere at the meeting was positive and warm. Meanwhile, Knesset members across the political spectrum were critical of Rice's Tuesday morning statements following meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, according to which the leaders would meet regularly with the aid of US mediation. Meretz Chairman MK Yossi Beilin said that Rice's "hollow" press conference was a direct result of Olmert's refusal to hold serious talks with the Palestinians. According to Beilin, "Olmert, even at the end of his term, is a compulsive refuser of peace." Rice said that the Israeli and Palestinian leaders will discuss a "political horizon," but that the two sides are "not yet at final status negotiations." MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) also came out strongly against Rice's statements, saying that the US diplomat was asking Israel "to hold talks on the establishment of a Palestinian state without peace and without security, and Israel must reject this." Earlier, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai said that Israel did not rule out talks with the Palestinians, but that Israel does not have to accept everything the US says. In an interview with Army Radio, Yishai said that "the system of relations with the Americans is good, and we need to keep it that way. Out of a goal and desire to achieve peace, they do want the best for Israel - [but] the approach from the US is not always the most correct one."