Olmert: No change until PA tackles terror

Says Israel won't unilaterally implement road map; Yishai: Israel must stop talking with PA.

Fayad 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Fayad 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel can take no steps to forward peace if the Palestinian Authority does not fulfill its obligations, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told ministers at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. "As long as the Palestinian Authority doesn't implement the measures demanded of them, in the way which is demanded of them in order to act against terror organizations, the state of Israel will not be able to make any changes on the ground," Olmert said. Unilateral action would "expose Israel to dangers and could bring about security problems," Olmert continued. "We do not plan to compromise on these issues, and they will continue to be an integral part of any dialogue with the PA." On Friday, two off-duty soldiers, Pvt. Ahikam Amihai, 20, and Sgt. David Rubin, 21, were killed during a drive-by shooting attack near Kiryat Arba. The two managed to open fire on their attackers, killing one of them and seriously injuring another. At the beginning of the cabinet meeting, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai also condemned the attack and said that it warranted an immediate cessation of negotiations with the Palestinians. "The negotiations need to cease the moment there are fatalities," Yishai said. "The Palestinians need to stop asking us to fulfill our road map obligations before they fulfill theirs. The negotiations are hurting us and we need to stop them." On Saturday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said that PA security forces had arrested an unspecified number of suspects. Fayad expressed condolences for the victims of the terror attack, and said the PA had handed over to Israeli authorities the dead men's weapons, which their Palestinian attackers took. "We have suspects in custody already," he said, sharing a podium with President Shimon Peres at an economic conference in Herzliya on Saturday night. "We are cooperating and coordinating with the Israeli security services, weapons have already been returned to Israeli security in connection with this particular incident," said Fayad, but did not offer specific details about the suspects held. The IDF was unable to confirm either part of his statement as of Saturday night. The attack occurred on Friday afternoon when Amihai and Rubin were hiking together with a young woman in Nahal Telem, not far from Kiryat Arba, their home. The woman said that the three had noticed a vehicle driving around the wadi that aroused their suspicions. Their worst fears were confirmed when the four occupants of the vehicle opened fire at the hikers. While the woman found a hiding place and alerted authorities, the two soldiers - who served in two of the IDF's most elite units - opened fire at the terrorists with rifles they were carrying. One of the terrorists was killed in the battle and a second was seriously hurt before Amihai and Rubin were both fatally wounded. The two died before rescue teams could reach them, as IDF troops, police, ZAKA and MDA teams had to comb the area to find the scene of the incident. Both Amihai, who served in the Shayetet 13 [IDF naval commando special forces] and Rubin, who served in the IAF's Shaldag Unit (air force commando unit], were laid to rest Saturday evening at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl Military Cemetery, following a procession from Kiryat Arba to the capital. Palestinians said that overnight Friday, hours after the attack, IDF troops raided a local Hebron hospital and detained two Palestinians believed to have been wounded by Amihai and Rubin during the attack. An additional five Hebron residents were also detained under suspicion of involvement. On Friday, the Fatah-affiliated Aksa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the shooting at a press conference in the Gaza Strip. A day later, the Islamic Jihad said the dead gunman was a member of its Hebron-based cell, adding that three others who participated in the attack had survived the clash and were in hiding. The two groups called the shooting an act of revenge for the IDF killing Palestinian terror operatives in Gaza. PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki condemned the attack, telling Israel Radio that "the group that carried out the attack seeks to sabotage peace negotiations and the Palestinian Authority's plan to increase security in the Palestinian territories." Malki added that severe steps would be taken against those responsible for the terror attack. NU-NRP MK Arye Eldad said following the attack that the more Israel surrendered to Palestinian terror, the more Jewish blood would be spilled. "The murders are the Arab answer to the surrender in Annapolis and [Vice Premier Haim Ramon's] plans to already begin evacuating and compensating Jews who live east of the security fence," Eldad said. Eldad's party colleague, MK Uri Ariel, called the attack "further proof that Palestinian terrorism raises its head when it identifies weaknesses and concessions by the Israeli government. The release of terrorists and the freezing of settlement construction, which the prime minister has championed, are a tail-wind for terror." In a statement issued Friday, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip (Yesha), called the shooting attack "a result of the government's reckless policy of releasing terrorists." According to an Army Radio report, the council demanded that the government disband a ministerial committee currently considering whether to ease the criteria for releasing Palestinian prisoners. "The government should be reinforcing the security of Israeli citizens, not [strengthening] Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas]," the statement said. Gil Hoffman and AP contributed to this report.