Defense minister, PA prime minister agree to keep in contact.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH, HERB KEINON
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad held a rare public meeting in Jerusalem on Monday that prompted scathing attacks on Fayyad from Hamas and several radical Palestinian groups that accused him of serving Israel’s interests.The groups claimed that the meeting was primarily designed to “exonerate” Barak for the May 31 IDF raid on the Gaza flotilla, which left nine people dead.RELATED:So this is the futureLearning to live like neighbors2011 - the year Palestine is born?Hamas condemned the meeting as “disgraceful” for Fatah and “offensive” to the Palestinians.“This meeting marks the beginning of direct negotiations [between the PA and Israel] and is being held on instructions from the US administration,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza City. “This meeting shows that [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas is lying to his people when he says he’s opposed to direct negotiations with Israel.”Barhoum said Fayyad’s government in the West Bank would not be able to achieve anything for the Palestinians because of its complete dependence on American financial aid.“This meeting [between Fayyad and Barak] is in the context of the agenda that Fayyad is implementing and which has nothing to do with the interests of the Palestinian people,” the Islamic Jihad organization said. “The claim that they discussed the siege on the Gaza Strip is only aimed at misleading our people. The man who perpetrated the piracy crime against the ships cannot lift the siege.”The group accused Fayyad of “washing Barak’s hands from the blood of the flotilla victims and Palestinians.”Barak issued a statement saying that the meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem centered on PA activity in preparing the Gaza Strip crossings for the expanded supply of civilian goods that will now be allowed into the territory.It is the PA that will now determine which goods will be allowed into Gaza, as long as they are not on the newly drawn-up list of prohibited goods.According to the statement, the issue of coordination on joint Israeli-PA projects was also raised, as was the continuation of security and economic coordination in Judea and Samaria. The two men also agreed to maintain a direct line of communication between their offices “to increase coordination and provide a response on issues that require direct and rapid contact between the sides.”The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, however, said the meeting was unjustified, and called on PA officials to refrain from talking to Israelis.“Is this meeting being held to pave the way for the resumption of direct talks [between Israel and the PA]?” the group wondered. “Or is it aimed at making Netanyahu’s visit to Washington successful?” The PFLP claimed that direct talks with Israel were a waste of time “because of continued and stepped-up settlement construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem and the siege on the Gaza Strip.”The Ahrar (Free) Movement said that the meeting between Fayyad and Barak was in the context of ongoing security cooperation between the two sides.“The Ramallah government [headed by Fayyad] is still insisting on serving as Israel’s security agent,” the group charged.
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