PM: Israel to ease life of Palestinians

Netanyahu: Economic growth in W. Bank not instead of peace talks; Cabinet OKs FM to head US dialogue.

Netnayahu 248.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski)
Netnayahu 248.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski)
Israel will try to remove bureaucratic obstacles in order to make life easier for Palestinians, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at Sunday's cabinet meeting. "I think we must make great efforts to ease life for the Palestinians, while keeping security constraints in mind," said Netanyahu. He went on to stress the importance of positive actions on the Palestinians' side as well, saying, "If there's willingness on the other side, we'll make progress faster than what is expected. However, if there's no cooperation, we'll continue to deal with problem-solving." The prime minister stated that he does not believe that any government that would endanger the safety of Israel's citizens in order to ease the Palestinians' life, but emphasized that everything possible should be done to help them. Netanyahu added that economic growth and the improved welfare of the West Bank population is not a substitute for peace talks. In related new, Army Radio reported that the IDF will open two routes connecting Ramallah and surrounding villages for Palestinian movement on Sunday. The roadblocks, near the villages of Ras-Karkur and Ein Yaboud, will be removed as part of a series of measures meant to ease Palestinian movement recently approved by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. Last week, OC Central Command Gadi Shamni announced that the Zion Route, which leads from the Jewish neighborhoods of Hebron to Jabal Juar, will be opened to Palestinian vehicles this week. The route was closed to Palestinian cars soon in 2001 following shooting attacks against Jewish settlers. Leaders of Hebron and Kiryat Arba were summoned to the meeting in which the military commander promised that new security measures would be put in place along the road to ensure the security of the Jewish residents. Also Sunday meanwhile, the cabinet approved the appointment of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as the minister responsible for Israel's strategic dialogue with the US. The dialogue is a framework for multi-agency high-level discussions on strategic issues common to both countries that is held a number of times each year, and which of late has focused on the Iranian threat. The dialogue was established in 1999. Lieberman will be taking over this position from Shaul Mofaz, who was in charge of the dialogue under the Olmert government. One government source said before the weekend that it was logical that this job would go to the foreign minister, and not to another minister as a political "prize." Mofaz was transportation minister in the Olmert government. The appointment of Lieberman to this position was part of the Likud's coalition agreement with Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu party.